Race Report – 2018 Rev3 Williamsburg Olympic

I cannot tell you how excited I am to be writing a race report for my first race of the year.  I got to race Rev3 Williamsburg and it was absolutely, completely amazing.

Most importantly, I raced smart, and after the race, nothing hurt that shouldn’t hurt after racing (if you finish a race and absolutely nothing hurts, you’re doing it wrong – or very right).

Heading into the race, I wasn’t nervous, which surprised me.  I was excited and ready to go (and worried I would forget something) but in general, I was ready.  I think not having a real time goal for the race helped in that regard.  I was just trying to race smart and race healthy.  It probably also helped that the course was just enough changed from last year that the races wouldn’t be an exact comparison, so I didn’t feel that pressure.

Race morning dawned bright and early and I was ready.  This race had a half and an olympic distance racing at the same time, so the half racers set off first.  We watched them go, then lined up for our start, scheduled for 7:20.

And then we waited.

And waited.

Rumors started flying about what was going on.  The timing mats were under water (we had to jump off a doc and the water was high so the doc was partially submerged).  There were unauthorized people on the course.  The half swimmers were “enjoying the paddleboard support” and we needed to wait for them.

Whatever it was, our race started nearly an hour late.  And that set off a lot of people’s nerves.  I was lucky to be standing with some friends so we just had a good time talking and trying to keep stress levels down.  I was a bit worried about my nutrition, but I knew I had an extra fig cookie in my bike bag (they come in packages of two, I only eat one on an oly bike, but had shoved the second one in because I was too lazy to do anything else with it – good thinking self).

This year was the first year they had us jump off the dock and swim to the boat ramp.  Previously, the race was in the other direction.  The water was ridiculously warm (something like 84 degrees, so warmer than the air) which made the jump easy.  When it was my turn, I walked up, leapt in, and started swimming.  There was a definite current assist, but there were also some sizable waves due to the wind.  I wasn’t expecting the chop in the water.  I found it mostly annoying.  I tried to stay tight to the buoy line, which was easier said than done with the buoys moving all over the place.  I got clobbered by one at one point.  Maybe too close to the buoy line.  The race had one turn, and once I made it around that buoy, I couldn’t see the buoy line for anything.  I’m not sure if it was the sun, but it definitely made for a tough last length.  It felt like a long swim, but my time was excellent, so that current assist definitely helped.

Swim: 26:19

And here started the fun part.  There was a quarter mile run to transition.  I didn’t want to screw up my left side this early in the race, so I forced myself to power walk the majority of it.  I finally got fed up with walking and gently jogged it in once I got off the blacktop and onto the grass, but it still took forever.  FOREVER.

T1: 6:43

Onto the bike.  This course was the same as previous years, so I had goals.  I’m still not back to where I was this time last year FTP wise, but I knew I had a good shot at getting near last year’s time.  For the first time, I tried to pay attention to my power as I raced.  Of course, I forgot that while in aero, my watch sometimes drops my power meter, but it wasn’t as bad as I feared.  (Should I get a dedicated bike computer? Probably.)  I set my watch to alert me when my goal power was low and this was a stupid idea.  I struggled to hold that power on the flats, so my watch was constantly yelling at me.  This did make me push harder, but maybe I should have set that alert a bit lower.

As with any race, there is a lot of passing early on in the bike leg.  And I started to notice a trend.   Women would call out when they passed.  Men would not.  So I started counting.  My final tally was that five men called out when they passed. The rest were silent.  Three women stayed silent and the rest called out.

Obviously, this isn’t an “all men” or “all women” thing, but come on, people.  Just a quick “Left!” is a huge help.

I called out every time I passed someone, and always thanked people who called out to me and told them they were doing great.

I felt like I was pushing way harder on the bike than I had in previous years, so I’m really pleased with my final time.  I was just over a minute slower than last year, and given all that has happened in the past year, that is amazing.  I put in the work and it’s showing.

Bike: 1:35:48

T2 was pretty cut and dry, one second faster than last year.

T2: 1:51

Onto the most mentally challenging part of my race, the run.  I needed to be smart here.  I hadn’t run much over 4 miles since November.  I had been keeping a 3 minute walk, 1 minute run pace in most of my training.  When I ran hills, I had a tiny bit of pain (as compared to the no pain on flats).  So there was a lot to consider.

I started out at my 3/1 pace, but quickly realized that wasn’t going to work.  Why?  I wanted to RUN!  So I decided to try out a 2 minute walk, 1 minute run, see how that felt.  And it felt good!  I basically walked all the uphills, just to be safe, but there weren’t that many.

I felt so freaking fast, compared to my recent run times. I held a sub-14 pace.  That’s huge, coming back from injury and surgery.  And the best part was that nothing hurt.  I did notice that immediately off the bike, my entire left side was tight and the first thing that popped into my head was “Oh, this is familiar.”  This was something I had been dealing with for a while, and it makes me wonder just when this labral tear really happened.  I did loosen up eventually, but it was slow going.

This wasn’t as mentally challenging as I thought.  Yes, I got passed constantly.  But I didn’t care, because I was out there getting it done.  Yes, it was slower than last year.  And the year before that.  But I was finally getting to race, and that was incredible.

Run: 1:25:31

Total time: 3:36:11, less than 10 minutes slower than last year.

I am so pleased with how this race went.  Immediately, I wanted to race again.  This has been my goal race for so many months, and my hard work has paid off.  I do still have a ways to go with my recovery, but I feel great!  And of course, it was amazing to be out there with my friends and my Coeur Sports teammates.  I am so lucky to be surrounded by such phenomenal people.

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.