Race Report – 2017 Space Coast Half Marathon

I made it!  All five years of Space Coast!  When we first started this series, I really didn’t know if I’d make it all five years, but I definitely wanted to.  I love the space program and I really wanted to get all five shuttle medals.  I typically don’t race for medals, but I’m not going to lie, this time, I raced for medals.

Of course, it wasn’t just about the bling.  It’s also a great time for me to go to Florida, and I had so many friends doing the series that it was always worth going.  Definitely one of the most fun trips of the year every year.

For this race, my main goal was to run with Kim, and we talked about a general goal of running sub-3, but really, just having a good time.  She raced the prior weekend, I was dealing with hip tightness, so who knew what would happen.  I knew that we would end up talking through the entire race so either way, it would be awesome.

And it was!  The weather was pretty darn perfect, not too hot or too humid, which is a rarity for this race.  I was feeling some tightness in my hip, mostly in my piriformis, but nothing like I had dealt with while running the previous weekend, so I wasn’t too concerned.  Kim and I ran along, keeping a pretty steady pace (save for the bathroom break we both needed), and basically enjoying the day.

Around mile 8 or so, my piriformis started to make itself known, nothing big. And then at mile 12, the soleus on my other leg froze up.  I think I yelled “CRAMP!” and Kim tried to catch me.  I wasn’t falling though, just hobbling.  I tried to walk it off, but every time I went to run, it hurt, so that meant we were walking it in.  Kim was awesome and didn’t seem to care that we were walking, so we just made our way to the finish line.

Not my best finish, not my worst finish, and I had a blast. Racing with friends is so much fun.  Some races are for pushing and trying to PR, but some days, it’s nice to just get out there and laugh through the whole race.

So that’s that.  Five year series complete.  I’m leaning towards racing again for the next series, or at least starting it out.  I like being in Florida after Thanksgiving and having a vacation to start the holiday season.

Now to get this hip/piriformis/glute thing fixed!

 

Race Report: 2017 Army Ten Miler

Army Ten Miler Beers

Photo credit: Shannon

Year nine for me for the Army Ten Miler.  And while this wasn’t my slowest time (that came when I ran and caught up with a friend), this came pretty close.  It was definitely one for the record books.  But I’m not complaining at all.

I’ve been saying all year that I’m due for a bad race.  I have been nailing it all year, maybe not setting PRs, but really racing strong.  Given that this past month, my goal has been to get more rest and really recover from tri season (and go to Disney World), I figured my training was a bit off for this race, and I shouldn’t expect a PR.

The weather definitely helped that goal.  We had a bit of cool fall weather, but then things shot back up again, and it has been stupidly warm.  To the point where most people still have their air conditioning on.  The temps heading into ATM weekend were looking okay.  Warm, but not terribly so, probably in the upper 70’s.  There was a possibility of rain, but that turned into a possibility of light showers, which I’m okay with.

When I walked out of my house on Sunday morning to pick up Shannon, I knew it was going to be a bad race.  It was 75 degrees and so insanely muggy.  So gross.  To compare, last year, it was freezing before the race, and we stood around in trash bags in an attempt to keep warm.  (That’s the typical ATM race morning.)

This race is huge.  35,000 people.  As per usual, I was in the second to last wave (the 7th), so my wave started at 8:48.  They set off waves every 8 minutes, and let me tell you, those waves go off exactly on time.  Would you expect any different from the Army?

I started out and was doing well, but I was literally dripping sweat.  I was pushing myself pretty hard for the first two miles, but my body told me to slow down.  My heart rate was too high, and I just didn’t feel great.  So I slowed down.  I tried to find a good balance between speed and temperatures, and did a pretty good job of it.

At the water stops, the cadets were amazing.  They had enough water that they were offering to pour or throw it on runners, and I took them up on it.  It was refreshing to say the least.  They had fun with it too – threw the water so hard my hat flew up.  But it felt great and I think that’s what saved my race.  I was wearing my Coeur aero top, and while I’ve done non-triathlon races in it, it clearly also functions well when wet, and I definitely think that helped keep me cool.  What I really wanted was ice to stuff in my bra, but well, you can’t have everything.

This race does attract a lot of newer runners, which is awesome.  It was one of my first big races, and clearly I loved it enough to keep coming back.  But unfortunately, that also means inexperienced runners who aren’t sure what to do when the weather is super humid.  The race organizers were saying all weekend to make sure that you hydrate.  I’m not sure everyone took that to heart.

Apparently, the number of people who were attended to by medics due to heat-related issues was incredibly high.  I heard someone say that 135 people were transported to the hospital.  Of course, that could be for non-heat related issues, but that’s a lot of people, given the medical treatment available at the race (including breathing treatments and saline IVs to rehydrate).

I heard people saying that they never stop at water stops because it slows them down.  That was the wrong thing to do during this race.  I have never consumed so much water during a race.  I carried my handheld and filled it at every stop.  The water stops were mobbed too, which just meant slowing down in general.

At 10:08, the organizers decided to turn the race into a “fun run,” meaning that anyone who hadn’t yet crossed the finish line was no longer eligible for awards.  They also rerouted part of the race, cutting off a mile.  I was past this point, so I did all ten miles, and didn’t actually hear about the change until I was in the finishers chute.  Obviously, I wasn’t going to be winning any awards, and had already decided to not push for a PR, but I was surprised that this wasn’t communicated out on the course.

The initial word from the organizers was that anyone who finished after 10:08 wouldn’t have an official time.  That changed after the outcry.  There was a timing mat that was cut, so anyone who missed that mat but still hit the others and finished would be listed as a finisher with no official time.  (This protects the people who are trying to streak the race, to have 6 finishes so they can register early, and who were racing for their employers – they can show they finished, and it wasn’t their fault they didn’t get the full 10.)

I have run races in worse conditions, so I was surprised to see this change made, but I’m not complaining about it.  I can only believe that with the information in front of them, the organizers felt it safer to shorten the race.  I suspect it was due to the number of heat-related injuries they were seeing.

I finished in 2:17:38.  Given that my 10 miler PR (with my post diagnosis reset) is 2:07 and change, I’m pretty pleased with this.  I slowed down about a minute per mile and found a good spot.  I didn’t feel awful when I finished, and while I was exhausted the rest of the day, I never felt sick, which tells me I did everything right.

Race Report – 2017 Patriots International Tri

Well, apparently 2017 was my season.

I finished my 2017 triathlon season with a bang at Patriots International and ended up as second place Athena.  Pretty darn proud of how this season ended.  But let’s talk about the race itself.

While I have raced two different international distance courses in Williamsburg, I had never done Patriots. That said, parts of the course overlapped those of the previous races I had done, so I had some sort of an idea of what I was getting myself into.

As per usual, I was watching the weather closely leading up to the race.  Of course, it was hard to make even the tiniest peep of a complaint, considering what has been going on in Texas and Florida.  But I lucked out and race day was pretty perfect.  Cold in the morning (around 60 degrees), but the water was around 75, and the day promised to warm up to around 80.

The swim ended up being wetsuit legal, and I followed my coach’s instructions to always wear my wetsuit if possible, because it was just free speed.  It was nice to just be able to put it on for warmth if nothing else!  As we watched some of the earlier waves start, I realized how shallow the water was.  In fact, the announcer said “If at any point, you forget how to swim, just stand up.”  People basically walked out to the first buoy because the water was so shallow that you couldn’t swim without your hands hitting the ground.  I know how much energy it takes to walk through the water, so when it was my turn, I tried to swim as much as possible, but walking ended up being easier.

The swim did involve some cross current swimming, but I honestly didn’t notice it too much.  Because of the placement of the sun, I had trouble finding the buoys at times, but it wasn’t too bad.  And I used the trick of taking my wetsuit off in the water and letting the water help me get it off my legs.  Definitely an easy way to get out of it when there aren’t wetsuit strippers.  Plus then I didn’t have to run in it.

Swim: 35:16

The bad part of this race?  The quarter mile run to transition from the swim.  Ugh.

T1: 4:11

On to the bike.  Now, they claimed this course was flat, and I would agree for the most part, but there were some rollers and quite a few false flats.  I would be riding along, thinking I was flying, then realize I was nearly a mile per hour slower than I thought.  Thank you, false flat. Of course, what goes up must come down, right?  The only real “hill” was going over the Chickahominy bridge, which is part of the Rev3 Williamsburg course, so I had just done it in July.  (Of course there, it’s right at the beginning and end of the bike course, which have to be the worst places for a bridge.)  The weirdest part of the course was the last mile or so, where you sort of had to wind your way back to transition on these narrow paths.  That definitely hurt my overall pace.

At one point, I passed a woman blaring music on her bike.  People.  Don’t do this.

My goal was simply to push my hardest on the bike and try to hold a solid pace for as long as possible.  I ended up averaging about 16.5mph, a bit slower than I wanted, but I’m pleased with it, and it meant I still had some gas left in the tank.

Bike: 1:25:17 (My Garmin read this as short – closer to 23 than 24 miles)

T2 happened.  Nothing exciting there.  I will say, that even though I came in second, I had the fastest T1 and T2.  Go me.

T2: 1:45

This run was billed as being on pavement, gravel, and trails.  So that sounded fun.  And it was… interesting.  It was definitely scenic and shady, both things I enjoyed.  But there was one turn that a number of people missed, and there were other points on the course where there was just a sign and no volunteer indicating where you should go.  I know, I know, the rule of triathlon is that it’s the athlete’s job to know the course.  But I didn’t love this.

Early on in the run, I heard someone yell to a teammate “Make sure you don’t miss the right turn after the water stop!”  So I kept that in mind, and yep, there was a right turn right after the water stop that was very easy to miss.  There were runners coming straight back at you, so it logically made sense to go straight… except for the small sign pointing you right.  I talked to a few people who had missed the turn and turned around to go back.  Worse, I ran into a few people who decided to run that part of the course backwards (it was vaguely P shaped, to explain how that was possible).  Not sure that’s legal, and I’m fairly sure it’s a DQ, but I’m no official, so who am I to judge?

So these trails winded around and up and down and it was a very lovely place, but also a bit more technical of a run than I’m used to.  I had to really push the pace here and not just run by feel.

As I was coming into the finish, there was a woman behind me with a huge cheer squad.  I love seeing that.  But then, her friend came up to her and said “Beat that girl in front of you.”  Oh no you don’t.  So I put on all the speed I had and sprinted into the finish.  Okay, so my sprint isn’t that fast, but I still beat her.  It wasn’t even about her, I think her friend just put a bug in my ear and I had to win.

Run: 1:18:30.  Only a minute slower than Rev3 Williamsburg, which was a fast and flat course.

Total: 3:24:57

So I guess this was definitely my season.  I’m super happy with how I did and all my work is really paying off.  I can’t say I’m looking forward to an easy off season as I’m picking up distance running again, but it should be slightly less stressful. Now I just have to stop eating all the thing, as has become my habit over the past month, and things will be great.

On to the next big thing!  But first, a rest week.

Race Report – 2017 Culpeper International

The wine label is triathlon themed.

Well, Sunday’s race went much better than anticipated.  The things I knew about this race were that the course was hilly and challenging.  I really wasn’t worried about it when I registered, but as I got closer to the race, people started commenting more and more about how hilly the course was.  So I started to think that maybe this race was going to be harder than I thought, especially coming off of Rev 3 Williamsburg, which is super flat.  But hey, who isn’t up for a challenge?

I wasn’t particularly worried about the race, just more reframing my expectations.  I can climb hills, but I’m not particularly proficient at it.  (That said, I’m pretty darn good at downhills – and you may laugh, but it is actually a skill.  Also, gravity.)  So I was anticipating closer to a 4 hour finish and well aware that it might not be pretty, especially given my training as of late.

One great thing about this race was the start time!  It didn’t start til 7:30, and since we were staying close to the race site, that meant not getting up til 5am!  Definitely sleeping in.

VTSMTS always puts on great races, and I love that the swag for this race included a pair of socks.  I can always use more bike socks.  I also love how they run race morning.  It’s low key and always staffed with awesome volunteers.

Race morning was pretty cold – below 60 degrees.  But the water was a disgusting 85+.  Definitely not comfortable swimming water.  Sure, it’s nice to get in and lounge, but if you’re trying to swim, you will definitely get hot very quickly.  So when my wave started, I decided to hold back a bit so as not to overheat myself right away.  I was still definitely in the middle of the pack and found myself dealing with a bit more contact than I’m used to.  This swim course was a bit odd though.  The lake isn’t big, so the International course had four turns, most at pretty sharp angles, and the last merging us back in with the sprint course (they started half an hour after the international).

It was generally no big deal until I was nearing the third buoy and got clobbered in the side of the head by a guy in the wave behind me.  Definitely not his fault (though I’m not sure what direction he was swimming in for his hand to land on my head) but it was a bit surprising and threw off my pace.  But hey, it happens in triathlon.

Swim: 39:42  Definitely not my best.  I think it was just the heat slowing me down more than anything.

Transition, nothing exciting happened.  Though I have GOT to speed this up.

T1: 1:59

The first thing about this bike is that you literally have to run up a steep grassy hill with your bike.  Not awesome.  Then you mount at the top of a hill, soar down, and have to slow for a sharp turn onto the course, where you immediately hit a climb.  So that was fun.

The one thing that did bug me a bit was that because of the timing of the two races (sprint and international), I was hitting the course at the same time as some sprint athletes, and it was clear that a number of them didn’t seem to know the triathlon bike rules.  Don’t get me wrong – there’s nothing wrong with being new to a sport, and there’s nothing wrong with being slow on your bike.  Forward motion is what matters.  But there were a lot of people riding to the left, almost crossing the center line.  They weren’t passing anyone, they were just riding wide.  This is against the rules, but more importantly, it’s unsafe.  You want to stay to the right.  Don’t ride the shoulder if it’s not safe, of course, but stay right so cars and other cyclists can pass and only move left when you’re passing.

Really, I thought this bike course was pretty nice.  There were some sections of road that were a bit bumpy, but nothing too terrible.  And the hills were challenging, but I kept waiting for the “one bad hill” that I kept hearing about.  I’m still not sure which one it was.  I generally knew what I had to do on the bike to leave myself time to get through the run and still hit a sub-4, so that’s what I pushed for.

Bike: 1:38:35

T2 included the run all the way back down to my rack.  If I thought running up that hill was hard, running down was impossible.

T2: 1:53

Photo Credit: Katie T

On to the run.  By this point, I discovered that my HRM wasn’t picking up my heart rate, so unless I’ve become a zombie, I’m pretty sure the battery is dead.  That makes running more interesting because I have to go solely by feel.  Since it wasn’t too terribly hot out, I figured my legs would tell me to slow down before my heart rate anyway.

This run was two loops with two out and backs.  I don’t mind courses like this because you get to see other people on the course, chat it up a bit, offer cheers to people who are struggling.  And the hills weren’t as bad as I thought.  Nothing too terribly steep.

As always, this is my worst leg, but I’ve just stopped caring about that.  I’m not going to be a fast runner, and that’s okay.  It’s still a lot of fun.

Run: 1:20:30 (still a sub-13 mile, which is pretty good.)

Total: 3:42:38, well under the 4 hours I prepared for or the 3:50 I hoped for.  I’m actually really surprised at how well I did.

And I also landed on the podium (though I was so far behind the first and second place girls that it was laughable!).

Liz and Katie (my awesome Coeur teammate) and her husband and some of their other friends were watching for me to finish and it was so awesome to be cheered in at the end.  I forget what that’s like, and it’s always fun to have cheers as you finish.  So thank you to everyone who stayed out there to cheer me in.  I had an awesome race.

 

 

Race Report – 2017 Rev3 Williamsburg Olympic

Rev 3 Williamsburg Race MedalRev3 Williamsburg was incredible.  Absolutely incredible.  Rev3 puts on wonderful races, and I cannot think of a single thing I would change about this day.

This was my second year for this Rev3 Williamsburg Olympic course.  (I did the race in 2015 as well, when it was taken over by Challenge, but the course was very different and really can’t be compared.)  So of course, I had goals.  Well, one goal.  Do better than last year.

I knew this was going to be a challenge though.  Last year’s race was incredibly fast partly due to some extreme currents in the water, so I figured this year’s swim would be slower.  Also, just in general, it’s July.  If the day ended up being extremely hot, all bets were off.  But I still had goals.  Last year, I raced an amazing 3:33:33 (best race time ever), so my goal was something around or under 3:30.

The great thing about this race is that it’s a big race with that big race feel, but because it’s only about 2.5 hours away, it also feels very local.  I knew so many people racing this weekend, people both from Mid-Maryland Tri Club and the Coeur team.  It’s always fun to see friendly faces on the course.  This year, they also added a sprint on Saturday (as well as a kids race) which made for extra cheering fun.

Saturday morning, I got up bright and early (well, it wasn’t bright yet) and headed out to cheer on the sprint race.  We got there in time for the swim start, and watched the swimmers enter and then finish.  I’m definitely glad I got to watch.  Not only was it awesome to cheer on friends and strangers, but it also gave me a look into what I was facing the next day.  The water was clearly incredibly shallow, as people were able to stand fairly far out (of course, that’s not the best race plan, as you expend way too much energy walking through water).  Once the swimmers were close to the shore and stood up, it was clear the mud was ridiculous.  The water was also incredibly dirty, and by the time the last swimmers got out, it looked like they were swimming in chocolate milk.  Yum.  So we stayed and cheered and celebrated with our friends as they finished, and it was awesome.

Rev 3 Williamsburg Race Morning Race morning, I followed my normal plan of getting to the race site stupid early.  I like to get there as transition opens.  Do I need to be there that early?  Nope.  Setting up transition takes maybe 10 minutes if I’m not moving particularly fast.  But I like to be there and get mentally ready and also hang out with people.  When people register for this race and list their tri club affiliation, if enough people from the club register, they rack you together, so you are near people you know.  This is also nice because you can assume your teammates are friendly and won’t just throw their stuff down on your transition spot.

Finally, it was time for race start.  We watched the 70.3 racers start, then it was our turn.  There were two men’s waves and two women’s waves.  I was in the first wave of women.  I walked into the water with a friend and sort of slipped as the concrete dropped off.  But since I was in the water, it wasn’t a big deal.  Also, the water was warm. Disgustingly warm.  The official temperature was over 85 degrees.  So gross.  It definitely felt like bath water.  And unfortunately, while there was a current, it was nothing like the previous year.

The horn blew and I was off.  I was generally pleased with how this swim went.  Occasionally, I found myself in packs, but didn’t struggle too much to get around them.  I also did a really good job sighting and felt like I swam a pretty straight path.  The water was super warm though, and I definitely felt myself getting hot.  And though I did my best to try to not get the water in my mouth, I definitely could feel the grit between my teeth.  Disgusting.  Also, my foot was starting to sting.  That wasn’t a good sign.

The water was so shallow that I understood why people were walking.  I wasn’t to the final turn and my hands were hitting the ground – and I don’t have long arms!  So I did my best to keep moving forward without walking and risking sinking in the mud, and finally, I was out.  And I was dirty.  My poor beautiful Coeur kit.  I hope it recovers.

Swim: 29:41 (2016: 25:47)

I glanced at my watch on the run in and knew that I was slower than last year, but thought I could pick up time on the bike.  Of course, now my foot hurt.  When I got to my bike, I paused and took a look at my foot. There was a chunk missing from the ball of my foot about a centimeter long.  That’s good.  But it wasn’t bleeding profus

ely, and since I knew it couldn’t be stitched, I just rinsed it out with water from the bottle I always bring to transition for rinsing my feet, and put my socks on and hoped for the best.

T1: 3:04 (2016: 3:03 – clearly I’m getting better, since this year I stopped to check my foot and wasn’t really slower.)

On to the bike.  This is a fast and flat course.  I was trying to do race math and figure out just how fast I could get off the bike and how much time I could leave myself for the run.  I’m not great at math on a good day, so trying to do race math while biking… well, it keeps me occupied.  This course is a bit long – 27.2 miles on the bike.  I hadn’t actually looked at my splits from last year, since I knew the swim wouldn’t be comparable, so I didn’t have a set goal, but figured something under 1:40 would be good.  My foot definitely hurt when I first started pedaling, but it sort of settled into a low ache, and I could mostly ignore it.

I do most of my training on hills, so I’m not really sure what a good flat course pace would be for me, so I just pushed.  I was aiming for around 17mph or more.  My plan was really to kill myself on the bike because I’m not a great runner, so this is where I can find the most improvement.

The course itself was awesome.  Some of the roads were smoother than others, which makes for an interesting ride.  For the most part, the other racers were friendly – most people calling out as they passed and encouraging each other, calling out friendly words, etc.  This wasn’t a closed course (bike courses rarely are), and for the most part, cars were friendly, though there were definitely a few buzzing racers.  I found out later that one cyclist even got hit, though I heard he or she was going to be okay.

I have my watch set to alert me at 5 mile intervals, and I kept ticking off the miles ahead of my goal pace, so I started to really think a PR was possible.  I wanted to leave myself at least 1:20 on the run if not 1:30.

One thing I noticed on the bike was that my heart rate was pretty steady and I wasn’t pushing into too high of a zone.  This tells me that I have room for improvement in my legs – and this is an awesome thing to discover.  I know that when it comes to running, I might have a little bit of improvement left, but I’m near that sweet spot where my HR and my pace are pretty maxed, considering my HR issues.  But on the bike, there’s room for so much more.

Bike: 1:34:16, 17.31mph (2016: 1:37:59, so I didn’t pick up as much time as I wanted, but still pretty darn good.)

In to T2 to check out my foot.  It wasn’t too painful, and I hoped my sock wasn’t just completely bloody.  Shoes off and my sock just had a little bit of blood showing.  Of course, it’s important to note that I was wearing hot pink socks, so as I realized later, it might not show much at all.  I didn’t take off my sock to check out my awesome wound though and just kept going.

T2: 1:52 (2016: 3:41.  Clearly I got lost or something)

Time to run!  My first steps while running were not awesome.  The wound on my foot had been in my nice flat bike shoes and not forced to bend at all.  Now, it hand to bend with every step.  It didn’t feel great, but I hoped it would fade.

My goal was just to hold a sub-13 pace and try to move as fast as I could while the day was still cool.  My first mile was comfortably 12:43, so I hoped things would hold.  This course is an out and back on a paved trail, and I love that sort of course when I know people racing because it’s awesome to get to see my friends and also to cheer for strangers.  I started leapfrogging with a couple of people and it was fun to chat with people.

I managed to keep my heart rate down while still managing to really power walk the walk intervals.  I think that’s one huge reason my pace has improved so much – I’m really pushing my walk intervals.  I also kept dumping water on me and packing my top with ice.  It wasn’t terribly hot, but that sun does beat down on you.

I hit the halfway point and knew that things were looking great for a PR.  As I ticked off the miles, I mentally calculated how much time I had left, and at one point, I had around a mile left and 20 minutes to do it in, and that was a great feeling.

Run: 1:17:38, 12:32 pace (2016: 1:23:02)

Rev3 Williamsburg Race Results

BOOM!

Total time: 3:26:32, a PR of 7:01

I was SO so so pleased with my finish.  I felt awesome and even with the slower swim, I still nailed it.

After the race, I walked over to medical to have them take a look at my foot, just to see.  My foot didn’t hurt, but I wanted to make sure that it wasn’t going to fall off or anything.  I took off my sock and they irrigated the wound, poked at it a bit, and put some ointment and a bandage on it and told me I would probably live.  Thankfully, my tetanus shot is up to date.  While I was sitting there with my sock in my hand, I mindlessly squeezed the water out of it (from all the water I poured on myself) and well.. it wasn’t just water.  So apparently that pink sock doesn’t show blood.  Good to know.  So gross.  Stacey was lovely and waited for me at the finish and got to witness this all first hand.  I have such great teammates!

Foot inspected, we headed to watch other racers and eat some delicious BBQ.  I also met Mariah from InsideTracker who is as lovely as she seems online.  It’s always awesome to put a face to a name.

This race remains one of my favorites.  I had the best time and I really can’t think of a single thing that I would recommend the race change.  (Except maybe clean up the water somehow.)  I’m not sure what races I’m doing next year, but this one will absolutely be on the list.  I definitely recommend it for anyone looking for a great July race.  And there’s all sorts of touristy things for your family to do as well.