We departed on June 16 for our vacation. We had a full itinerary on this trip to parts of the country we have never visited.
Our first stop was Portland, Oregon. Our flight took us through Denver which presented some beautiful views from the air!
Once arriving in Portland and checking into the Embassy Suites (we had a nice experience) and getting settled, we ventured out to explore a bit. Even though it was late afternoon and not close to dinnertime, we were hungry, since our internal clocks were on east coast time. We had a light bite at Pine Street Market (local food hall/court) to tied us over to dinner. But then, we decided to check off a “Portland must-do”…Voodoo Doughnuts! We are on vacation…right?!?!?
We decided to head back to the room and get cleaned up and rest awhile before grabbing a real dinner. WELL…..we both fell asleep and slept until morning! I guess that is one way to get adjusted to west coast time!!
The first full day in Portland started with a morning run.
I always love to explore a new place via running!
There is a great path encompassing the waterfront and we took advantage.
I LOVE running along water and this was great.
One of my favorite things was all the different bridges throughout.
After cleaning up and a great breakfast at the hotel, we decided to explore the city and what other way to do this other than on bikes?!?!?! We rented two very simple (single speed) cruiser bikes and went everywhere!
The day also included stops at the infamous Powell’s Books and Little Big Burger for lunch. After that we took a detour to the hotel for a break due to a bit of rain.
When we were able to resume, we saw so much more!
One pit stop included ice cream at Salt n’ Straw, which came highly recommended. It DID not disappoint, as I think one of the best milkshakes Tony has ever had was that day!
This is what our day on the single speed bikes ended up looking like via Garmin….LOL!!! I could not resist! This was definitely a much different effort than what I usually have on the bike!
After a full day of activity, we had exciting plans to meet up with Leslie from Triathlete Treats. Since she and her husband, Dan, live in Portland, I reached out to her while we were planning to get advice on all things Portland. Luckily, the timing worked that so we could all have an evening out together. They took us to one of their fave restaurants called, La Bistro Montage, and it was awesome. Their menu includes a section of a variety of mac n’ cheese that you can customize and I went that route. YUM!!!! After dinner we went for ice cream at another local spot called Ruby Jewels…I took Leslie’s advice and opted for a customized ice cream sandwich. You know life is good when you have ice cream twice in one day! #wewereonvacation
Before heading back to the hotel, we received a local’s guide to part of the city. It was cool driving through town and learning more about Portland and their view of home. It was an awesome night full of great conversation and good times.
The next day was a planned to be a drive down to the Willamette Valley to explore some wineries and do some tastings. Before picking up the car, we went for another run along the water. We did a little different route in order to check out a different bridge.
We had received several recommendations for wineries to check out and I was very excited. We had a bit of rain during the day, but nothing too bad. Our stops included Four Graces, Sokol Blosser, Armonea and Laurel Ridge, which ended up being our favorite!
We had a great time learning about this region and the wine was delicious!!! If you have a love of wine I highly recommend exploring the Willamette Valley. This day was a real treat and I am so glad we decided to add this day to our itinerary!
The next day we had a general idea of what we were doing, but we were also open to a day of exploring! We had planned to drive from Portland through the Columbia River Gorge and Mount Hood National Forest and eventually arrive in Bend! This was definitely the “SCENIC ROUTE” (speaking literally and figuratively) and I am so glad we decided on this drive! There were so many highlights and our cameras were definitely working overtime.
Some hiking and waterfall exploring makes for a great way to break up a long drive.
I never tire of waterfall watching. These were so great!
We stopped in Hood River for a late lunch at at Full Sail Brewing Co. We were famished and this local spot ended up being a great choice. When we left Hood River to resume our drive, I had no idea what we ahead of us…
When I first got a peek of this mountain top, I knew it was going to be breathtaking!
These views did not disappoint!
As we continued to drive and see it closer and from different angles, it became more and more beautiful!
We arrived to Bend very late in the afternoon. We had a vacation rental which was a one bedroom house that was in a great location. The bonus to our rental was that it had a washer and dryer. With all our activity, we definitely had plenty of laundry to do! We got settled in and cleaned up and ventured out for a light sushi dinner and for our first real drive around town. We saw very quickly what a charming town Bend is and was excited for the next couple of days!!
Our first full day in Bend was started with a short run around town. We didn’t find the best running route in town, but we still enjoyed the crisp, cool morning air and some pretty views in a local park.
The plans for the day included a hike on the Misery Ridge Trail at Smith Rock State Park. This trail came highly recommended and boy….IT DID NOT DISAPPOINT! I will let these beautiful photos tell the story!
After this wonderful morning, we grabbed lunch and headed back into Bend. We then decided to take the relatively short drive to Tumalo Falls. This was a great choice and it is amazing that these beautiful falls can be seen within a fews steps of the parking area.
After a great day of exploring we had plans for happy hour at Crux Fermentation Project. We met up with Kristen from Glitter and Dust along with her husband Justin and precious little one, Axel. Kristen provided me great tips on how to best enjoy our time in Bend before our arrival. Crux has a great outdoor area where you can lounge, listen to music and enjoy some drinks. It was a beautiful evening and it was so fun hanging out with our friends in Bend!
The following day was another fun day of exploration. After a morning run (we were just loving the morning temperatures in Oregon) and a quick breakfast, we did lots of driving around, stopping at points here and there and continued to be in awe of this beautiful part of the country!
One of the highlights involved Green Lake…we didn’t have the chance to do the hike here, but these views that can be seen from the side of the road, were awesome!
Another highlight was a short hike around Sparks Lake. The pictures say more than I can in words….
I could spend all day on a paddle board or in a kayak floating around this lake.
I just could not get enough of these views!!!
Later in the day, we headed back to the house and decided to take the cruiser bikes out around Bend. The bikes were provided with the house rental.
We did a lot of cruising up and down the Deschutes River trail around the Old Mill District. You can quickly see that this river is a way of life here. People were everywhere enjoying the trail (running, biking, walking, etc) and floating on the river.
We were here on a late weekday afternoon and so I can’t imagine what it would be like on a beautiful weekend! This was really a nice treat and having the bikes available at our rental and being able to cruise around town was a blast!
After our ride, we were ready for a cold beverage, and stopped at the Atlas Cider Company. Wow! This blackberry cider was amazing!!! Sadly, I can’t find it in NC and hope one day that I can!
This was our last day in Bend and I was sad to leave to next day. I would have loved to have been able to have more time for hiking and exploring as I think we just skimmed the surface of the best Bend has to offer!
On a side note, I have to mention this little coffee house that we found and visited twice during our stay. It is owned by a local lady that is super friendly and makes the BEST frozen blended coffee drinks! If you visit Bend, check out this local hidden gem for a treat!
The next morning was a flight from Redmond, Oregon to Seattle, Washington…the last stop in our adventure! Upon arriving in Seattle, we checked into the Hotel Vintage, which ended up being a great hotel! We headed out to the waterfront and grabbed lunch at Elliott’s Oyster House…we both had Dungeness Crab & Shrimp Melts…yummy!
Our first afternoon in Seattle included an outing Tony had in mind from the beginning when we decided to visit Seattle. We were not sure if it would happen, but in the end it did….he flew a sea plane and we enjoyed sightseeing from the sky!
Lots of preparation takes place before the plane is ready to go up. Of course the normal pre-flight inspections and safety checks, but the plane has to be moved into the water…since it has no wheels, a very interesting truck is involved in towing the aircraft. As the picture shows, it is essentially a chopped off pick-up truck that does the towing!
I will say that this was the highlight of our entire stay in Seattle and I am so glad that all the logistics worked out and we were able to take advantage of this rare opportunity!
Our first full day in Seattle started with a chilly morning and a run around town. I will mention that Seattle has some serious HILLS!!!!! Who knew?!?!?!?
After breakfast at Biscuit Bitch, which was recommended by a friend at home,
we started exploring the city on foot. I especially loved walking around and through Pikes Place market. You can’t go to Seattle without checking out the fish mongers and the flying fish. It was a lot of fun!
Pikes Place market was full of not only fresh seafood, but lots of fresh produce and flowers. If I lived here, I believe I would have to make frequent visits!
We all know that Seattle is home of the first Starbucks. What I didn’t know is that there is a speciality Starbucks Roastery and Tasting Room in Seattle. Since the afternoon brought some drizzle, we thought it was the perfect time to check it out!
As you can see there were big batches of beans being roasted before our eyes.
At the Roastery and Tasting Room, you can experience blends that are unique to that location. We sampled with a flight of coffee and cold brews! YUM!
Of course we had to make a purchase to bring home some of these special blends! This afternoon stop at the Starbucks Tasting Room was really enjoyable and something I would recommend for any coffee lover!
Dinner that evening included pizza at Serious Pie, which also came recommended from a friend of ours at home.
After dinner, we decided find a place to enjoy a glass of wine and dessert. We tried Purple Cafe & Wine Bar and it hit the spot. The decor and vibe are very upscale and modern and there was also a good crowd. We sat at the bar and enjoyed something sweet and a nice glass of wine.
We awoke to kick off our last day of vacation. We had a full day planned. We started out with another morning run. It was a dreary and gray morning, but this would be the last run in a very long time that we would be able to enjoy cool temperatures!
We planned our morning run to end at Pikes Place. We had to do the “Seattle thing” and visit the Original Starbucks. We knew there would be a line and we (mainly Tony) are not ones to wait in long lines, but we figured this was a novelty thing to do on vacation.
During the previous morning when we were down at Pikes Place, there were decadent smells coming from a bakery a few doors down from Starbucks. We knew we had to check it out. Our breakfast that morning came from Piroshky Piroshky which is a Russian bakery selling Piroshkies, hand pies filled with a variety of fillings. Tony and I shared one sweet and one savory…they were tasty!
After our breakfast and getting ready for the day, we headed over the Pioneer Square neighborhood (which we had checked out the day before and really liked) to participate in Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour. Before the tour began we were able to check out a few of the shops and stores in the area. This is a very neat area!
The Tour came highly recommended and I liked it pretty good. Tony was not a huge fan, but was a good sport.
After the tour, we had a bite of lunch and then grabbed an Uber to visit the Museum of Flight. Since Tony is a private pilot, this was definitely on the list of “must-dos”!
There was tons to see and some very cool history to enjoy.
After yet another full day, we enjoyed a great Italian dinner at the Tulio Restaurant, which was conveniently located in our hotel. It was delicious and I can’t recommend the sweet potato gnocchi appetizer and the linguine and clams dinner enough! We found a corner spot called Gelatiamo and shared a scoop of gelato for dessert. Knowing we had an early morning to catch our flight, we called it a night.
We were fortunate enough to have a direct fight home from Seattle. One of our final views was this beautiful sight…
This vacation was full of adventure and Tony and I had a blast visiting a part of the country that we had never seen before. I love to travel and explore new places and this trip did not disappoint! Besides the beautiful photos that really can not due justice to some of what we saw, I was so fortunate to connect with two blogger friends that I had only previously “met” over our respective blogs and through social media. That supports what I have known for a long time…I am lucky to be part of the triathlon community that includes some amazing people!
Until the next adventure…
The logistics of this race require some additional planning to be sure to best use your time. In the past, I have taken the Friday off prior to this race, but I could not do that this year. During my lunch break, I headed downtown to the Convention Center for packet pick-up. Since it opened at noon, there were plenty of other people that had the same idea. Several of us had planned to meet up and I only ended up seeing a few folks. Getting through pick-up took longer than it has for me in the past. I hit the IM store for some shopping and spent some money in NO TIME! I had a couple of minutes left for some pictures, but some people in our group had already left to go back to work and some were still in line, so the planned group pic didn’t happen.
Saturday morning was low key. I prepared homemade blueberry pancakes to kick-off my pre-race day eats on the right foot. While I was cooking, Tony was putting the last minute touches on my bike.
After breakfast there was lots of chatting and texting with some of my teammates about preparation, meeting up for bike check, etc. The morning flew by and before I knew it, we were eating lunch.
So, here is where some of the race logistics are not so fun. We needed to check in our bikes on Saturday afternoon at the swim start which is located about 50 minutes from my house and in a different direction than the downtown area where T2, the finish line and race headquarters are located. This is one big reason I wanted to get checked in and packet pick-up completed on Friday.
I met up with two of my training partners for check in. It went smoothly. We checked out the lake and the swim buoys …all looked good.
We arrived home and I completed all my race prep while Tony started cooking a pasta dinner. After dinner we actually watched 2015 IM World Championship coverage from Kona to get in the race spirit and then got into bed at a decent time. Unfortunately, it took me a very long time to fall asleep (which is not usual) and before I knew it, the 3:30am alarm sounded.
Back to the logistics of the day, I needed to be downtown at T2 in order to catch a shuttle that would take us out to the swim start (about 40 minutes away). Several of the team members arranged to meet at 4:45am in order to ride over together. Tony was a real trooper and got up with me, had breakfast and then dropped me off. What a supporter! The road to the swim start is closed to traffic therefore, any spectator wishing to go out to Jordan Lake, must also take a shuttle. However, they are not shuttled back until the last swimmer is out of the lake and has progressed out onto the bike course. Tony and I had agreed that I would see him on the run. Trying to navigate the bike course for spectating can be challenging with traffic backed up and at least one road closure. It is a lot to deal with for a quick glimpse. I knew I wanted him to be out on the run….that is where he could provide me the support I would need. Like last year, he took out his mountain bike in order to maneuver quickly to various spectating spots.
The line for the shuttle went quickly and several of us from the team were on the same shuttle. The ride out went extremely quickly. We arrived around 5:45am….plenty of time for final preparations until T1 closed at 6:45am (pro start at 7:00am and my wave started at 7:56am).
The swim was definitely not wet suit legal. The four years that this race has taken place, the first two were wetsuit and last two not. Last years’ race was actually May 31 and when the date for this years’ event was announced as June 5, I figured it would most likely be over the 76.1 degree mark.
I was feeling good as the swim began. I had a huge goal for myself which was to really work on sighting and trying my BEST to maintain as straight a line fairly close to the buoys. This is a big weakness of mine and I knew that IM would have lots of buoys which obviously makes it easier to sight. As the swim started out from shore, things were going well. I did not have a lot of contact and I continued to see yellow caps around. I was able to get in a draft for a short time once or twice….something else that I need to work on. The right turn at the first buoy was a game changer. Within a matter of seconds, I felt the chop and waves change completely….for the worse. This was status quo for this long stretch of the swim. I also felt like I was being pushed out from the buoys close to the support kayaks. I continued to stay focused on the sight buoys. There was more contact with other swimmers on this stretch. I also saw a some back stroking, which is not unusual. As the chop continued, I just maintained course as best I could and fought on. The next right turn would be the one to lead up into shore. I was so hopeful that the chop would settle some and we would have a kinder last leg. My wish did not come true. It might have even been worse going in. I don’t know….I was focused on the shore and finishing. As I ran out of the swim, I lapped my Garmin and my time of 52 mins showed. Instant disappointment. This was my slowest Raleigh 70.3 time. I had planned for better execution. I was happy to be running out about 10 steps behind one of my friends that is a stronger swimmer than me. That really surprised me.
I swam the entire swim and did not stop along the way. I felt like despite the crappy conditions, I stayed strong and consistent as I could. So, what I didn’t realize is that these conditions had really proven to challenge more than just me. Apparently there were people everyone stopping for breaks with support crew and people that were being asked to be taken to shore. Also, there were folks that I know that did not make the swim cut-off that would normally never have any problem doing so. Jordan Lake was no one’s friend on Sunday. My huge personal accomplishment related to my swim for the day was that I ended up as rank 49 out of 121. This would put me as top 40% versus bottom 40% from last year (93/151). I am always looking for the indication of personal improvement at an event. While a better time is always great, it can be tough to compare a race from one year to the next due to differing conditions, true distances, or other variables. While the age group field is also different from one race to another, I think it can be helpful as everyone that is racing that one particular day are all dealing with the exact same conditions that the day brings. Also, when I looked at my Garmin stats post-race, my GPS track on the swim was fairly straight. Two personal victories!
On a side note, Tony was actively tracking me. He knew that I would not be happy with my swim time when I saw my Garmin when I exited the water. However, he knew that my overall placement coming out of the water was much better than where I typically am, which would be good news. He called my mom who was waiting to see me around mile 6ish of the bike and asked her to try to communicate to me that I should be happy with my swim. He had correctly predicted that I would be thinking about it as I progressed on my bike.
Nothing too interesting to report. Honestly, I was feeling a bit bummed. I did my thing which include a thorough spray of sunscreen. The distance from my rack spot to the bike mount was far.
The first 5-6ish miles of the ride are not pleasant. The road is not smooth and there is an additional out and back section which is tacked onto the ride out from the lake to the main road. There are clusters of people and it is not easy to get into any kind of rhythm at this point. My approach each time I had done this race is to focus on (1). drinking and (2). eating. I did just that. At the end of the lake access road is where my mom always hangs out during the race. This is just a matter of a few miles from her house, so it is super convenient place for her to cheer! I yelled to her and she cheered and then I heard….”blah blah blah blah SWIM….”. Then more cheers….GO GO GO LEE!!! What? Did I hear her say something about my swim? Little did I know that she was trying to send me a message at the time!!!! Love her for trying!!!
As soon as that turn is made off the road that accesses the lake, the real riding begins. This stretch of road is flat is smooth. Great, great, great! This is the first place where you can really fall into aero and get a solid rhythm. My goal was to ride by feel…push where I thought it was smart to and ride easy where it made the most sense.
As in years past, one of the most important things for me to do on the bike was DRINK! With the temperatures to be (at least) in the mid-80s for the day, staying current with hydration was important. I started with one bottle of Gatorade (the same they were serving on the course) on my bike, as well as water, and I planned to restock at each aid station. I had all the nutrition I needed with me…Honey Stinger Waffles, Honey Stinger Chews, one Bonk Breaker and goldfish. I also had salt tabs which I took several of during the ride. #hshive
While I was drinking just fine, I did not have the feeling that I wanted to eat. I had a larger than normal portion of oatmeal for breakfast at home around 4am and then I have ¾ of a PBJ around 7am before the swim. I wanted to start with the Bonk Breaker (I typically can only eat those early on during a hot ride) and then switch to normal option of waffles and throw in some goldfish for a change of taste. I also had the chews if I felt like I wanted them. I had about half of the Bonk Breaker early and then the next time I ate, it was part of the waffle. Overall, the idea of food was just not appealing to me. I didn’t feel bad at all, just uninterested. However, I knew it was important to get in the calories!!
I was feeling good and felt like my pacing was spot on. I was not feeling hot and took fresh hydration at each available station. I did check my average speed a couple of times, but I didn’t want to focus on it too much…just continue on by feel.
Around the 44 mile mark, the bike course goes along a road that my brother and his family live off of, as well as, one of my closest friends. I was on the lookout for them, but I was not certain that everyone would be out. I saw my brother and his three kids along with an awesome poster!!
Very shortly thereafter, Kelly and Sean spotted me at about the same time I saw them! So awesome to see everyone out just to support me!
The last 12 miles of the bike continued on really well. My legs felt good and I felt like I had been riding smart. I continued to drink and the eating was not quite where I wanted, because I was still not wanting to eat, but I ate ok. As I neared T2, I felt confident with a new PR and was feeling as ready as I could to start the run.
The dismount off the bike and run into T2 was not a short stretch. I thought about leaving my shoes on the bike, but was concerned about how hot the pavement would be. It was not a pleasant run in bike shoes, but did ok. It was much better than my T2 fiasco from 2015! I changed shoes and grabbed my visor, race belt and hydration belt from my soft sided cooler in the transition bag. I was certain to generously spray the sunscreen. Stopped for a bathroom break and I was on my way! Big smile when I passed some friends as I ran out of T2.
Right away, my stomach felt off. It felt ick! WHY??? Who knows!! As I was running, I just didn’t have the umph to push. I didn’t know what to expect during this half marathon. I saw Tony right away and he was saying that I looked good. I just wish I felt better! Very soon after I saw my good friends Tim and Nicole. They are awesome supporters and tend to choose great words to help motivate. Like he did last year, Tony brought down his mountain bike so he could get around on the course easily. That ended up being a great plan for him and I think it made the spectating more fun from his perspective.
This race is definitely a journey of aid station to aid station. I was wearing a hydration belt of Gatorade Endurance and I had goldfish and Honey Stinger chews, so that allowed me really focus on the cooling aspect at the aid stations…ice in the sports bra, water over the head and shoulders and some for drinking. I will say that from the four times this race has taken place (I raced three of those and volunteered at a run aid station the other), this year stood out as having fabulously stocked aid stations (ICE EVERYWHERE and more cold sponges than ever).
As I continued on my first loop, my stomach stayed about the same. Didn’t get worse, but not better either. It was just off. It was great seeing lots of others from the team. Having strong people out there that you train with that are enduring the same tough conditions makes a difference. I walked more than I ever wanted to during a race. I am always open to walking the aid stations in order to get everything you need, but always plan to run otherwise. I needed more breaks, but tried to get them as short as possible.
As I was nearing the end of the first loop, Tony asked how I was doing. When I told him “about the same”, he asked if I had taken Coke. NO! It simply had not crossed my mind, since I was focused on staying as cool as possible. I took it as soon as I could. The end of the first lap goes down close to the finish line and loops around to start the second lap. During this section I passed the cheering section for the team and they were out and loud with lots of high fives! LOVE THAT!! I saw Tony again and Tim and Nicole. They all continued to tell me that I was looking strong…they are so sweet…I wish I felt strong!
Within 10 minutes or so from taking the Coke, my stomach started feeling better. GOOD! I took it at every aid station thereafter and I was so glad Tony had suggested it. The second lap still was not great, but more consistency in the run than before the Coke. It was hot with really no relief from the sun, but I continued to focus on cooling myself regularly. I continued to see teammates which is a big boost. Everyone was working so hard and giving it their all. What awesome people I get to train with!!
As I hit the last mile, I was just so focused on finishing. I was so ready for that chute…I remember it so well from previous races and it is GREAT! As I turned onto Fayetteville Street and followed the arrows to the right side (the left side is for the start of the second loop), I was relieved. I finished strong and savored that awesome feeling of crossing the finish line. I love that feeling of giving your all and the pride for your accomplishment. I received my medal, finishers’ hat and considered any food that might appeal to me (nothing really). I quickly saw Tony, Tim and Nicole and met them at the fencing. I was thrilled that my fourth 70.3 distance was done!
Post race is always fun. Beaming from the excitement and chatting about everything that happened. I knew that Bill and Matt, whom I have spent most of my training time with this season, would be finishing soon, so I was on the lookout. This was their first 70.3. Also, another close friend of mine was racing in her first 70.3, so I wanted to bet there when she finished. Fortunately, I was able to pair up with the guys after they finished.
I totally missed my friend Tarina, but we caught up about 30 minutes after she finished for a big sweaty hug. I could not have been any more proud of my friends that completed their goal of finishing their first 70.3. What a tough day, but they DID IT!!!
The team had a post-race cookout. During the cookout, we learned that our team, Oak City Tri, took second place in our team division overall. How cool! We are a new team….we don’t even have our team kits yet. Our visors and t-shirts were completed prior to race day, but we are still a few more weeks out for the kits. Very exciting!
I had a very attainable goal heading into this race. Even though every race is different, from my experience at this race and training this season, this is something I was aiming for. Unfortunately, I did not hit my goal. There are some things that I am especially proud of though.
While my overall, swim and run times were not better than last, my age group placements did improve. I was also able to secure a new PR on the bike!
2016 Overall Gender Rank = 153/664 (23%) 2015 Overall Gender Rank = 189/699 (26%)
2016 Age Group Rank = 26/121 (21%) 2015 Age Group Rank = 38/151 (25%)
2016 Swim Rank = 49/121 (40%) 2015 Swim Rank = 93/151 (62%)
2016 Bike Rank = 23/121 (19%) 2015 Bike Rank = 42/151 (28%)
2016 Run Rank = 26/121 (21%) 2015 Run Rank = 38/151 (25%)
Probably like most, I do a lot of reflection after a race. I think about the things that went well and the things that I hoped would go better. But, I don’t have regrets. You make decisions over the day and you can’t second guess them days after. Those decisions are often made when you are feeling great or feeling low, but you have to have faith that you made the best decision you could at the time. I am proud of my day. I am also thankful that I am able to participate in this amazing sport and that I strive for big goals and continue to challenge myself in this way. I am so incredibly lucky to have had the support from family and friends that I had that day. SO AWESOME!
Kudos to Raleigh for another great showing at the IM 70.3. The volunteers were amazing and the course was lined with supporters throughout Pittsboro, Fuquay, Apex and Raleigh. I have read so many compliments from various racers and it makes me proud that my hometown can support this great event!
I vividly recall during my run at the 2015 IM 70.3 Raleigh when I decided that I would not do this race in 2016. Well, fast forward one year and I am upon my third start at Raleigh.
The decision “made” in 2015 was in the midst of a very challenging part of my race…the run. The heat has always been a tremendous factor at this race….specifically during the run. This year looks to bring very similar weather conditions, so I am very familiar with what to expect. It certainly won’t make it any easier, but I know the EXTREME challenge it can be.
This will be my fourth 70.3 distance race. My very first half iron distance was Beach 2 Battleship (now Ironman 70.3 NC) in 2012. That race was my time PR for this distance at 5:53:43. However, that course is a fast and flat with a current assisted swim. The weather that day in October was also a beautiful 70-something degrees. Raleigh 70.3 is a far more challenging course and historically tougher race conditions with heat and humidity that Mother Nature has not given us time to acclimate to prior to the race. One of my big goals for Raleigh 70.3 last year was a sub-6 hour finish. My finish time was 6:02:12. While this was my best Raleigh time (plus the first year it had not been wet suit legal), you can say that I have some unfinished business on this course.
I have trained hard this year. I feel I have also trained smart this year. On Sunday, I want to combine the two and go for my goal. With the heat, I know it is super important to listen to my body and respond appropriately. That is the most important thing…the forecast shows a very tough day! But hopefully the day will be a good one for me and all my dedicated efforts pay off!
Last year I raced in my first ever duathlon. I had a great time at that race and knew that it would be a repeat event for me. They offer both a long course and short course option, but with my training for Raleigh 70.3, the obvious choice was long course. With the race taking place on May 14, it is actually a great lead up to the 70.3 on June 5. Two of my training partners also raced, so even better to have friends out on the course!
The interesting twist to the race this year is that it served as the USA Triathlon Long Course Duathlon National Championship for 2016. That would bring in athletes that would not normally be participating in this local event and I expected them to be great racers as well!
The race took place in Cary, which is just down the road. The venue was located about 35 minutes from home, but had an early start of 7:00am. That meant an alarm of 4:20am…ouch! It was a tiny bit chilly race morning, but that really meant that it was going to be a great weather day for us! We arrived around the time I planned and was able to park super close to transition. I love when that happens! All the typical pre-race stuff happened as well as connecting with my friends. The one big difference about a duathlon is that I do a run warm-up and some dynamic stretches beforehand….all not typical with a tri!
The long course guys were scheduled to start at 7:00am with the ladies starting 7:04am. The short course began at 7:15am. The event was a 5 mile run/30 mile bike/5 mile run. The run was an out and back with the majority taking place on residential sidewalks and greenways with “small rolling hills (as the course description read)”. The bike course included “fast, flat, rolling and climbing sections with multiple view of Lake Jordan”. Part of the course included a two-loop section which passed a local strawberry farm. I have ridden all these roads before, but not frequently. However, the course is generally the type you would expect for our area.
The run started and I did not have a specific plan, but mile #1 is generally my slowest mile and I gradually build. I can say this is the case for me about 95% of the time. Well, this day proved to be different. Mile #1 was an 8:14 split, my fastest mile of the day! Still not sure where that came from, but I didn’t really feel like I was pushing that hard at the beginning! I did settle down into a more likely race pace for myself, but I have to admit that I was glad to have the first split in my pocket! Overall, I was happy with the first run.
Onto the bike….the one thing I did, which I planned to do, even though I don’t prefer it, is to wear socks on the bike. I always bike barefoot unless it is a cold day. Otherwise, I just don’t like it. However, since I do wear socks on the run, it only made sense to wear them for the leg in between the running! I did have a little bit of a hard time getting my shoes on with the socks….that may sound weird, but that’s that. Too long in T1. Tony was not there to push me in transition (as he typically does) because he had run out to see me on the bike course. There was a place he could see me twice, but that involved him getting in a four-mile run and then back! I always love to see him out, so I was glad he decided to get in some run training as I was racing!
I had my nutrition and hydration plan which would all occur on the bike. There were aid stations on the run, but that served as only a little cup of water a couple of times. I started out hard on the bike but then just tried to ride smart. The plan was to take advantage of the downhills and the flats and work the gears on the uphills. I was eating and drinking well and took one bottle of water at the one handoff on the bike course. Within the last few miles I really started to notice the fatigue in my legs. Maybe I pushed too hard?!?!? Do I back off? Well, I didn’t really. I would just endure the second run as best as I could. It would not be easy anyway, so I just kept it going.
Into T2 and I saw Tony (he was back from his run). This transition was much better than T1. As I ran out he asked me how I felt…”my legs are shot” was my response.
That first mile of run #2 was not easy. I just told myself that the first miles are never easy and after I found my rhythm I would loosen up. This was the case. It was still a challenge throughout, but I was pleased with how I mentally and physically hung in. I saw the guys on my way out as they were headed back in. Racing with friends is the best!
Knowing I had a solid first run, I was really hoping for a sub 9:00 pace for the 2nd run. As I saw my Garmin laps tick off, I knew I would not achieve that. However, my last mile ended up at 8:37 pace, so overall my 9:04 pace for the second 5 miles was exciting after all! Very close!
The finish line felt great (doesn’t it always) as I gave it all out there.
My Garmin distance on the bike is pretty spot at 29.6 on I think. (My two training buddies had 29.69 and 29.73). The race results use a 31 mile distance, so unfortunately that 20.1 mph average speed in my official results is a bit inflated! I find it very interesting to look at my overall category placements in a duathlon. Unlike a tri, you are running twice. While my first run was my fastest, that was my lowest placement. I guess more people went out hard and had less in the tank that I did when you look at my placement for the second run. Slower pace than the first, but higher placement overall. Hummmm….
Post-race there was plenty of socializing and hanging out. There were good choices for food, and while I had a bit, we all had planned lunch out post-race, so I knew a good burger was in store for me. Once again, this was a great event. It was fun to race a duathlon again and it also served as a great lead up to Raleigh 70.3.
As I mentioned in my last post, I was uncertain if my race season would start on April 30 with the Beaverdam Olympic Tri. I was hoping that it would, but since I am highly impartial to cold water swims, I had to determine if the water would seem to warm up enough for my liking. Generally, I think I am NOT ok with less than 70 degrees. That makes me whatever that makes me, but I am a Southern girl and cold and I are not besties!
We were able to have some warm days (in the 80s) and that translated to the lake temperature rising. I signed up on the Monday prior to the Saturday race (most of the week had temperatures forecasted in the 80s) and I knew of a few people that had already ventured out for their first OWS, so I was taking their word that “it was not that bad”!
In preparation for race day, a group of us did complete an early morning OWS on the Wednesday prior. I was ready to get this first lake swim under my belt for the season. My wetsuit is sleeveless (this I what I am most comfortable in) and I believe the water temperature was around 68 /69 degrees. Honestly, it was not horrible, but it was still cool enough that I never felt like I warmed up. We did an out and back which totaled a bit over a mile and at the turn around, I was still chilled. I seem to have trouble getting deep breaths when I swim in cool water. I definitely experienced that and had a less than stellar OWS season opener. I am very glad that I did it and it was awesome to have a good group of teammates to meet for the swim.
So, the Beaverdam Olympic Tri takes place in Wake Forest (just one town over from Raleigh) and the event is held at one of the Falls Lake Recreational areas. It is where I prefer to do most of my OWS training, so I am very familiar with the area. I have never done this race, but it was one that I had been wanting to do and since it occurred a week or two later this year, I was able to give it a go. The gates did not even open to the park until 7:15 with a start time of 9:00. There was also a sprint distance that started at 9:30. This later start was nice in that the alarm did not have to be set crazy early!!
When we left home Saturday morning there was light rain, but nothing on the radar, so I was hopeful that it would clear very soon (which it did). We arrived at the race venue around 7:40 (about a 25 minute drive from home) and parking was very easy and convenient. It was just a short walk to transition to set up. There was a good number of folks from the tri team racing which always provides an extra bit of excitement to the day. Everything was well marked and easy to navigate….my only suggestion for improvement would be to add more space between the bike racks as it was a tight squeeze.
After getting body marked, my chip and transition set up, the crew started coming together for pre-race conversations. It was in the upper 50s and it seemed like it was going to be a good day to race. Even better, it was announced that the water temperature was 73 degrees! YAY!!
Because my Wednesday OWS was not a good one, I had decided that I would get in a warm up swim. Even though I knew it was warmer, I wanted to get as comfortable as I could before it was go time. Well, I was super glad that I did. The water felt so much better… what a pleasant surprise!
As the time approached, it was great to have some female teammates to hang with as we prepared for our swim time (the guys were divided into two separate groups before us). Before we knew it, it was go time! I felt like I got a great start and pretty much continued with the momentum. There was one point for a very short time that I wondered if I went out too hard (not typical), but the feeling passed. With only one OWS so far, I have not had sighting practice this year (which continues to be one of my weaknesses), but I felt like with only a few exceptions, I was on conservative path for my swim (and not swimming to much off course). Overall, the 1500 meter swim was good, I found my rhythm, swam until my hand hit and sandy bottom I got it done!
The run up to T1 was a bit uphill and Tony ran with my the entire way (it was a smaller race, so this was not a problem nor did it interfere with anyone else). My bike was racked on the end next to the fencing, so he was able to stand outside of transition and talk to me while I did my thing. My transition time was good.
The bike course exits the park and proceeds out through the county. As per the race description….” The course will feature fast flats, small climbs, and rolling terrain”. A majority of the route I had ridden before so it was familiar.
The first few miles on the bike I was feeling my quads, but I focused on getting some good hydration early on and settling in…which I did. Traffic was not too bad. There was only one intersection where I had to pause longer than I would have liked, but the officer quickly told me “YOU DON’T STOP”! It was just more congested that I would have liked and wanted to make sure I made a safe decision. The sheriff deputies at this event were really great (there was one that even clapped for me)!!!! I feel like I rode the 24-mile course fairly well and it was about what I expected.
T2 was ok. I had to stop for a few seconds as I was about to go down my row to re-rack my bike because there was a little traffic jam (that’s why I mentioned the racks were too close together). I always take time to put on socks in T2 which add a little more time, but it is a necessity for me. I grabbed my visor and race belt and put those on as I was running out of T2. Once again, Tony was just by the fence talking to me while I transitioned. He always pushes me to work toward a faster T time.
As per the race description for the 6.2-mile run…” The run course will be totally contained in the Beaverdam Recreation Area. The course will be a 2 lap out and back. The run will have a rolling design with 2 aid stations. The first aid station will be at the 1st lap turnaround and the 2nd aid station will be at the out turnaround.” This was a perfect description!
As is typical for me, my first mile ended up being my slowest, but when I saw the lap time during the run, I was happy with how I started. Throughout the run, my legs were definitely feeling the “rolling design”, but I pushed on the downhills and flats. Because of the course design and there were lots of teammates there, I saw lots of friendly faces the entire time. Our team cheerleaders were at the turn around which is always a boost! Overall I pushed on the run…maybe too hard, but I just figured I would put it all out there.
Since this was a last minute sign up, I really didn’t consider specific goals that I wanted to aim for. That is unusual for me, since I typically set out specific goals when I race. When I was pushing on the run, it was not because I was gunning for a specific time. I knew my swim time, I knew my bike average speed and knew each of my run lap times, but I didn’t know overall run time. I didn’t have an overall goal, but I pushed to finish strong. I ended up sprinting to the finish line because there was another girl right there. I didn’t think she was in my age group and I guessed she was doing the sprint, but I didn’t know any of that for sure, so I wanted to hit the line before her, just in case. Crossing the finish line is always so wonderful. My biggest supporter was right there to watch me finish and he knew as well that I had a good day. I started to look at my Garmin for overall time….I realized that I lapped my Garmin when I finished, but I hadn’t stopped it. I had about 51 seconds more to my Garmin time. However, since Tony timed me, he was able to tell me right away that my time was 2hours 47minutes! REALLY?!?!? I was thrilled!!!
This was only my third Olympic distance (odd that before this race I had done more 70.3s than Olys). My first Oly was back in 2011 when I was over the 3-hour mark. Last September I raced my second and had a huge new PR of 2:52:04 and placed first in my age group out of 19. This race I was able to secure yet another new PR by 4.5 minutes. You can see how my results fell overall in my age group. This race had some stellar competition…especially the runners!
Gamin Times: Obviously “unofficial”, but it is important to me because it always gives me a better gauge of my true swim time. Most races the swim “time” captures some part of transition, based on where the timing mats are placed. I am always very diligent about lapping my Garmin as soon as I stand up being done with the swim. This has proven to be a better tool for my swim analysis.
All in all it was a great day. We had several from the team that took a podium spot in their age group. I am glad I raced!!
Many of us joined together for a post-race lunch which was a lot of fun. The afternoon consisted of a GREAT nap and a quiet evening with dinner in (except for a quick trip out for my typical race day treat of a milkshake)! This was a great way to kick of the tri season and it was even better to share it with great teammates!
This has been my motivation for the past several weeks.
WHY? This years’ training has been similar to that of the past. I am dedicated, work hard and give it my all. I am serious about my training and really striving to improve; however, I am trying to not take my training too seriously. Make sense? Hopefully….at least it does in my mind.
Let me explain some more. Two of the key drivers to my mindset has been my swim and my run. With the break I had to take from running late last year, I have mentioned numerous times how hard it has been to “get my run back”. With that, I was able to focus on my swim during the off season. However, I wish I could report that I have seen big strides in my swim progress.
I decided that instead of obsessing about how my run pace is a bit slower that this time last year (also, when I was leading up to Raleigh 70.3), I will take a piece of good from every run. It may be that I was able to hit a better pace at the track than the prior week, or that my heart rate was lower during the most recent tempo run than the last, or that I did not have any achiness in my leg….whatever I can pull out, I will and I take it. This is similar to my swim. While honestly it is super hard to not keep that last swim split time in your mind when you push off the wall for the next, I have been trying to keep my concentration on my stroke, overall technique and staying relaxed. When I allow myself to get too caught up in 4 or 5 secs from the last lap, I tend to get uptight and that is definitely not a good thing for me and swimming. Being relaxed brings much better results, from my experience.
This has not been easy AT ALL! I will admit, I am competitive….after all, we race, right? Sure, when I see someone in my age group out on the course, I am driven more to close a gap or take a pass. However, I know that I am even more competitive with myself. It can be hard to not have most of my focus be on the time, pace, speed, etc, but I am trying. I think when I have been successful in not allowing myself to get so uptight over the numbers these past several weeks, it allows me to enjoy my training more. Don’t get me wrong…I still review my data in Garmin Connect and structure each workout and my plan to become stronger and fitter. I am committed to working toward my goals. I am hoping that bringing more positivity to the big picture will give me the little something extra to get there.
Highlights from my recent weeks:
1. This past week I felt my training really “click”. This was the third week of the 3-week build and the last before my current recovery week, so despite the natural fatigue, it seemed my body was responding well to the training and I was feeling good during most of my workouts.
2. Long bike ride = 54 miles and I think I felt just about as good as I have on the bike all year (and this was my longest ride so far this year). 4 mile run off the bike was a challenge, but I was able to improve my pace on each mile. During the run my sole focus was on good breathing and staying strong.
3. Last long run of 11 miles = Nailed my hydration and nutrition and felt pretty good throughout AND after! It was awesome to have T run with me for part and ride the last few miles alongside to keep me company!
One crazy ride I will share was a couple of weeks ago when a few of us ventured out on a late Saturday morning and we knew that it would be fairly cold and windy (we DID have sun). This ride ended up being brutal! I can’t remember having the strong, constant wind we endured for that 44 miles ever on a ride before. There were crazy gusts plus headwinds where you felt like you were on your bike trainer (not moving!!!). We ended the day with 44 miles on the bike and we earned every single mile!
Random fun stuff:
We got out of town a few Sundays ago for a day at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Va. I have not been to an amusement park or been on a roller coaster since college! It was such a fun day and I am so glad we picked a day and planned a quick get-away.
2. Threshold test (re-test)
3. The decision regarding my first race – will it be to Beaverdam Olympic on April 30? Water temperature has been hanging around in the low 60s and not really moving…until yesterday. I hate swimming in cold water, so I will see how it goes the next few days!
It seems like yesterday that it was the new year and now we have already moved up the clocks. No complaints at all, since I have already taken advantage of the extra time in the evening with after work outdoor rides. We have been blessed with some beautiful weather for the past couple of weeks which is always welcome. Being out on the bike without any type of cold weather gear makes this girl happy!
As we started the year, I was excited for the tri season and new adventures. I have already had a few ups and downs, but am in a good place overall. Mainly this is related to my running fitness and how I had some forced time off last fall into the winter. After my leg was better and I started back running, my progression seemed to be very slow. I certainly did not expect to bounce back to where I was at the end of October (when I was training for the half marathon and was in a good place with my running fitness), but it has been much slower than anticipated. Besides having a slower pace, I was battling higher heart rate for the efforts I was giving. I started focusing on my specific HR zones and incorporating some Z1 and Z2 runs to work on my base fitness.
After hanging in and staying determined, I finally feel more like my running self. While my speed is not what it was (yet), my HR is cooperating better and is more in line with what I expect. While I am not 100% ache free, it is not anything that prohibits me from running. I am still having ART on occasion and staying super focused on stretching/yoga and foam rolling.
I pushed the “go button” for Raleigh 70.3, which will take place on June 5. This will be the third time that I have raced Raleigh and did not originally plan on it for this year. I was excited about the idea of Chattanooga 70.3, but I missed out on the sign up last fall and it sold out! I was a bit hesitant to commit to another round at Raleigh, since I knew I would have big goals since there are a few things I had not yet accomplished related to that race. However, there are lots of people training and I decided to just give it a go and, as always, train hard and do my best. Even if my run has not gotten back to where I ideally would like, I can’t dwell on the fitness I had. Working hard is something I am not afraid of doing and that is exactly what I will continue to do in preparation for June 5.
Biking has been good. The last couple of weekends have been outdoor rides (one cold ride and the another that started nice but ended up having a small burst of torrential rain after the halfway mark). On January 30, I took a FTP test, which is the first time I had done so using a power meter. I plan to repeat the test in the coming weeks to note changes. I believe this will be a great gauge to monitor improvement!
Swimming….oh where do I start to give an update? I previously shared here on the blog that I decided when I had to stop my half marathon training last fall that I would have a strong focus on my swim during the winter. I did just that. I have been able to generally get in three swims a week. I had a couple of lessons to provide me guidance on stroke improvement and drills to incorporate. I have been super focused on my form and maintaining that focus throughout each and every workout. Some days I feel my off season dedication is paying off, but then some days the frustration level is high. I have decided to focus on those good days and not let the bad days take over mentally. I think my stroke has become more efficient and stronger and I will continue to work toward improvement and stay as positive as I can!!
One great thing to report about my swimming is that I have developed regular training buddies at the pool. Being part of a team and being around people that have similar goals and training habits is great! Historically, I would always choose to swim in the evenings after work and would generally be solo. The logistics associated with morning swims and then a long commute to work, was not a task that I could accomplish. Since changing jobs last year and being 5 minutes from the pool, I have taken to regular morning swims along with others from the tri team. A few of us are on the same plan, so we have the same workouts to complete, which is very different for me, but I love having training partners! I have gotten used to morning swims and the occasional evening swim that has to happen when the timing fits best into the plan, almost feels weird!
So, I am starting week 8 of my Raleigh plan. This week is recovery week. Here are some of the highlights of my training over the past several weeks:
· Swim = Endurance swim from last Thursday evening. It was 2600 yards total with the main set being 4×500 (alternating swim/pull). Being an evening swim at the end of the week, plus the last workout before rest day, I was not sure what to expect. I could tell fairly early on during the warm-up that it would be a good one. I was really feeling the water well and felt fluid and smooth. It makes me wonder why I can’t seem to recreate that for myself more often. Clearly I have it in me… (I must add that I did this swim WITHOUT my i-pod. I realized when I was prepping to get in the water that I failed to charge it after getting the low battery warning at the end of my last swim. Yay me!!)
· Bike = Two workouts that I can reference…one was my FTP test back on January 30. This was actually before my Raleigh training plan started and was during some pre-season training. I felt as if I was able to give an solid effort throughout and did not go out too hard and pay for it at the end. It can be tough to find that happy medium. I was pleased with the numbers while knowing that I have lots to work on! The second I can reference was PART of a workout. That sounds odd, a couple of Sundays ago, I ventured out on a 40 mile ride with two of my training partners. It was early afternoon and was a beautiful day. It was truly one of those days that is awesome to be outside just riding your bike. That joy was cut a bit short by torrential rain…it didn’t last too long, but we couldn’t find the gas station for shelter quick enough!
· Run = My last few tempo runs I have felt like I was able to give a solid effort, the effort my legs wanted to give, and my heart rate responded better than expected. While they were not easy runs, by any stretch, it has been the challenge I needed and I felt like I delivered!
· Yoga/foam rolling = This is a big part of my training and I continue to be dedicated to incorporating appropriately. I do a better job at scheduling these activities so they don’t get pushed aside or forgotten. I want to be a healthy triathlete and I am committed to doing my part!
On a side note, two Sundays ago, I went out to spectate a local marathon called the Tobacco Road Marathon. Our good friend, Tim, was racing. He and his wife Nicole were my original partners to race at Kiawah Island last December, but Nicole ended up participating solo when Tim and I had to pull out due to injury. Since becoming healthy, Tim has trained tremendously hard over the past several months and was hoping to race to a Boston Qualifying time. Well, he did just that and I was so glad to be there to watch him race and cross that finish line meeting his goal.
His emotional reaction was so amazing and very inspiring. Hard work and dedication are truly rewarding and I could not complete this post without sharing this news. I am so very happy for him!!
A new year has begun. I know we are half way through January, but two weeks ago I had not yet decided what I wanted to share as my first post of 2016.
People approach a new year in a variety of ways. As an athlete, my year is typically full of goals and aspirations, so there is not one thing that I dig in and focus on as the calendar hits January 1. Some of these goals I already have in mind and yet there are some that I have not yet realized.
I do know that I have gotten excited about this new year. I remember feeling this way in 2014, the year I did IM Lake Placid. I was excited to start “clean” and approach the year with excitement for what I knew (sort of) the year had in store. However, this year is so different from 2014. I don’t have an Ironman on my schedule…in fact I don’t have any races locked in at all. So, what is brining on this anticipation? Honestly, I am not 100% certain.
Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I ended 2015 with not being able to run and the subsequent DNS to my planned half marathon in December.
Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I have been running over the past few weeks (generally comfortable efforts and low mileage), but feeling hopeful that my running is getting back on track and this experience has PERMANENTLY ENGRAINED IN MY MIND the importance of stretching and foam rolling with any training. I plan to get my leg healthy and keep it that way!
Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I wanted to tackle my swim in the off season and I have been faithful in my trips to the pool, so far. This gives me hope that I will realize improvements this season.
Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I received this notification in my inbox this week….
It reinforces that the hard work I have put in has paid dividends.
Maybe it has something to do with the fact that my tri team is looking forward to an exciting year with people training for a variety of events, including some doing their first 70.3 or IM! The energy is exciting and I know I will have lots of opportunities for solid training in 2016!
As it develops, I look forward to sharing my race schedule and related goals for the year. I hope everyone is on track for an awesome 2016!!!
Today is the race day that did not happen. My original plan for today included running the Kiawah Island Half Marathon. This was the first race that I knew I would have on my race schedule for 2015. It was actually decided in the summer of 2013 (sitting pool side with cocktails)…yeah, a long time ago.
At the end of my tri season, I had switched to a run focus and had a great plan to follow. I was working hard and running well overall. As of my last running update here on the blog, I knew my goal (and stretch goals) were completely attainable. That is one reason why it is so frustrating. Despite the best laid plans, they unfortunately have to change sometimes. To my dismay, I have deferred my race registration to 2016.
About seven weeks ago, I was having some lingering leg pain. It was originally in my inner thigh where I felt the most. I finally had the run where I knew I had to stop and give it a break. I iced, stretched and rested it for a few days. Then after this initial break, I gave it another go. I still had the pain. So, more resting, stretching, icing and ibuprofen. This time I gave it a week without running in hopes that would be enough. I was still optimistic that I would be able to race on December 12.
Upon my next try at running, I was not feeling the pain in the inner thigh. I was able to get a mile, but I gradually felt pain in the upper hamstring/inner abductor. After that, I gave it one more go, but decided I needed help. The basics of rest, stretch, ice, ibuprofen was not doing the trick.
I have read about ART (Active Release Therapy) and my friend Tim was undergoing treatment when I started battling these issues. He had good luck with the treatment (he was supposed to run the marathon distance at Kiawah Island, but had to defer his registration as well). I started seeing the same doctor and have had four treatments so far.
My last training run occurred on October 24 and had not tried had a “successful” run since then……..until this past weekend. After my third treatment, I was given the green light to go for a run. I was able to get in three miles!!!! I did not have pain, but still felt tightness in the same area. I was very excited to get it in and how I felt. I WILL say that it was surprising how my run fitness has dropped in the weeks that I have had to that this break. That’s okay though, just happy to run! Baby steps…..
It seems that the pain problem are weak hips/hip flexors which has caused me to compensate in other areas during my running resulting in the issues I am currently experiencing. I have added hip strengthening exercises to my regiment as well. So, when I do get back to a regular running routine, my hips will be ready!
Fortunately, I really wanted to focus on my swim after Kiawah, so I have just pushed that up in the schedule. On average, I have been able to get to the pool three times a week. Regular swimming during the off season is a goal of mine and I have gotten off to a solid start. I have also continued to bike on the trainer, which is what I opt for when I need a good sweat session!! I have incorporated core and lower body work without any pain, so I have plenty that I CAN do!
This is the first race of any kind, that I have signed up and was not able to participate. I know that listening to my body, focusing on treatment and getting my weaknesses stronger, are in my best interest. It is still a bummer that I had to put it on hold and not go for my open half marathon goal this year. No worries….I will be healthy and determined when the 2016 race season rolls around!
My friend Nicole is racing this morning…..she was the last one standing after Tim and I had to defer. (Tony had considered this race at one time, but never committed.) Her training has gone really well and I know she was prepared to have a great day. Sometime soon we will all be able to race together….I guess we can plan this next summer while sipping cocktails by the pool!
Tony had said for several years if he ever decided to run an open marathon, it would be the Marine Corps Marathon (MCM). With his other two marathons coming as part of Ironmans, this would be a different challenge with the focus solely on running. Since the interest for MCM is so high the opportunity to register is only available through a lottery system. Unfortunately, he was not one of the lucky ones to get in through the lottery, so he investigated other options, which included charity slots. He decided to get involved with Project Zero, which is a charity to raise awareness for prostate cancer, and fundraise to be able to race. He also convinced his brother, Johnny, to participate through the charity, so they could register for MCM together.
As with most endurance race training, Tony had his share of ups and downs with his training. However, the last several weeks were plagued with knee pain which resulted in him not able to get in the volume and speed work that he wanted. He was determined to race though!
Race day was Sunday 10/25 and we drove up to DC Friday evening after work. Saturday consisted of a good breakfast, packet pick up, exploring the expo, lunch, rest and a pasta dinner. Tony’s philosophy (and mine as well), includes staying off the feet/legs as much as possible the day before a long race…no shake out or short runs the day before. Everyone has different philosophies, but this seems to work for us.
Sunday morning was a super early wake up call. Tony is not one to get to a race site super early, but based off what we were expecting and the volume of runners, we left early! Fortunately, we had scoped out the metro the evening before when we went to dinner and figured out what line we needed to take to our desired stop. The Metro Center stop was super convenient since we could connect to the station from access through our hotel (Grand Hyatt). Upon exiting the Pentagon stop for the race start, we were not able to walk too far until we were part of the massive line waiting to go through the security check. The line moved at a snail’s pace. It also started to rain, which we were expecting.
The time ticked by quicker than the line was moving. Tony started to get anxious about having adequate time to make it through security and then get all the way up to his coral. It finally got to the point that the Marines that were manning security, called for the racers that were empty handed. I gave him a quick kiss, wished him luck and off he went, along with his brother. We (me and my sister-in-law, Quinn) did not have to wait too much longer to make it through, but I feel Tony never would have made it to his coral before the start had they not left when they did.
It was total chaos!!!! Racers were literally sprinting to attempt to make it to the start line. People lined up at the bush line for a last call of nature before race time. I have never seen anything like it!
There are a few things that make this race special.
I was thrilled that I was able to see the paratroopers with American flags falling in the sky and then the fly over by the Osprey. SO.VERY.COOL!
Since it takes so long for all the runners to actually start the race, we were able to spot Johnny prior to his coral beginning. We did not have a lot of time though, so we wished he final “good lucks” and off he went.
Quinn and I had a spectating game plan. We did not wait long to head off to the first spectating point. We knew there was plenty of time, but wanted to go ahead and find a good spot, which we did with lots of time to spare.
We were able to watch the leaders of the race pass by which is always exciting, in my opinion. Tony’s game plan was to basically be in the pack between the 3:10 and 3:20 pace groups. SOMEHOW, I missed him at the first point. I could not believe it! I have spectated so many races, so I was surprised when it got to the point I knew he had long since passed. I knew I had to head on and this is when Quinn and I split. There was no way for us to stay together and watch for both guys.
My second point was quite a hike and I was navigating in an unfamiliar city. I quickly learned though, that it is a benefit to spectators, as well as the runners, to have the pace groups (not used to this since triathlons can’t offer this). When you see a pace group pass it helps you better gauge where you runner may be.
Fortunately, I spotted Tony at this spectating point, very easily. It was a bit over the half way mark and I was carrying an extra pair of his running shoes in case his wet shoes were causing issues (he has forever battled blisters). He looked strong and his pace up until then was on point. However, he told me that his knee was starting to hurt and he decided that he did not want to take the time to change shoes. I was so glad to see him and passed along my words of encouragement.
Point three was not too far away and not too long after I just saw him, but I wanted to be there as much as possible. I was able to enjoy spectating a bit more since I was playing the waiting game there. As he passed, I got more photos and shared my cheers.
I decided to try to get to one more point to see him. It was going to be tight based on the distance I had to walk and when I suspected I would see him based on current pace. I was also a little uncertain on the best way to get there. However, I got to just where I wanted to be and could not tell if he had passed that point or had not yet arrived. I was around mile 19ish. I quickly asked a lady if she knew what pace group had last passed. Based on what she told me, I thought MAYBE I has just missed him. In a very short time, I saw him. YAY!!!! He was not in a good place and I just tried my very best to give him positive words and lots of support. I would see him next at the finish.
The walk to the finish line was much easier to navigate as I had an exact point of interest I could enter in Google Maps. (GPS navigation makes life so much easier!!!!! I probably depend on it too much!) I will mention that MCM provided an app that I downloaded on my phone and used all during the race to track him. I found it extremely helpful! I also signed up to receive text messages when he passed certain timing mats. Those seemed to work very well.
As I approached the finish line area, I struggled initially to decide where to wait. I could not get really close to the finish line because of the way it was deigned/setup, but I did find a point that ended up being perfect! I had to be fast with the camera though because I would not have a lot of advanced sight time before I needed to snap for photos.
The point where I waited was at a left hand turn the runners take where they climb a hill that takes them across the finish line. (A hill to a marathon finish line….not nice!!) I saw him and snapped three pictures. He did not see me but I patted him on the arm as he ran by.
Somehow we were lucky enough to find one another very easily after he crossed the finish and was navigating the exit area. I was so proud of him and knew that he had to dig deep for this race. It was not the race he wanted, but with the circumstances he had to contend with, I could not have been more pleased of his accomplishment. I wished it would have been different, but he pulled out so much more than I thought his knee would allow. What a badass!
We had time before his brother would finish, so we found a place for him to rest and have a little something to eat. We did try to walk down to the beer tent, but before too long we realized that it involved too much walking and then we would be back tracking to get back to the finish line. This is one of the disadvantages to participating in a large race….everything is very spread out. We finally decided found a good place to chill as we waited for Johnny.
During this time we talked about his day and chatted with other runners that would stop along the way for a short rest.
After we knew that Johnny had finished, based on the tracker, we had our eyes peeled as not to miss him. We finally all gathered with the exception of my sister in law, because her phone had died and we did not know where she was!
After dealing with the logistics of metros and trying to find everyone, we all eventually ended up back at the hotel for some rest. It was neat to hear Tony and Johnny chat about their races and their experiences of the day.
The evening consisted of meeting up with some dear friends from home that now live in southern Maryland. They came into DC and we all celebrated with a sushi dinner and then enjoyed good times with after dinner drinks. It was certainly an adventure filled day!
The next day was filled with lots of walking. It included more than either of them needed, but it was a fun day of exploring DC. I think it can be best told by photos!
This was definitely a bucket list item for Tony and I am so happy that he was able to check it off the list. I don’t think he is anxious to run another marathon of that size, but it was a new experience for us all!