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!
Since my last triathlon of the season in September, I knew my focus would immediately turn to running. Since the summer of 2014, I have had my eye on the Kiawah Island half marathon in December 2015. That is quite some time ago, and is fairly atypical for me, but that is what happens when you are hanging out with other runners one beautiful day at the pool while having a few cocktails!
In all seriousness, I was totally on board for this race. I have never raced in an open half marathon (they have all come as part of the 70.3 distance) and I had firm goals in mind. Our friends that were part of this discussion are Tim and Nicole, who are going for races in all 50 states. Plus, Tim had his sights set on a race that would be a Boston Qualifier course and Kiawah seemed like a great choice! So, it was decided back in the summer of 2014, Kiawah Island would be on our calendar for December 2015.
I was looking forward to going into run focused training after the Outer Banks Oly back in September. At that race, I had a really good run and that gave me a boost of confidence for what I might be able to race for in December. Tony helped me select a plan and it is a program called “FIRST” (Furman Institute of Running and Scientific Training), which is three runs a week and cross training on other days, This seemed like an obvious choice in training plans, as I always want to get bike trainer time and need swims as often as I can get them. The three runs a week include the three biggies…speed work/intervals, tempo and a long run. I opted for a lighter training week after Outer Banks Oly and then the following week started up with the new training plan.
Running has been going well. Unfortunately, at the end of September/beginning of October, we had a TON of rain (something like 14 days in a row), so there was plenty of this:
However, the last two weeks have been more typical fall weather, so running outside has been a treat with pleasant temperatures and just the desire to be outside (I LOVE FALL!) I have also been hitting the track, which is something I have not done in quite some time. For the last couple of years, speed work for me has been on the treadmill, which really is a challenge, but there is just something about those track workouts!!!
Since my training is going well, I have begun to adjust my goals, which I will share soon. I was bummed, as this last weekend’s long run was not good, but I was able to get my mileage of 13 total and add to the pool of mental toughness. I have not run 13+ miles since Raleigh 70.3 at the end of May, so it was still good to get the mileage tucked away.
So, other than 13.1 training, a couple of weekends ago, we also participated in the last Tri Throwdown of the season. If you have not read my prior Throwdown recaps, check them out here (from September and August), since it is a unique race set up. As I have previously described, there are only three rules, (1). Be Safe (2). Have Fun and (3). Go to the after party. However, with the rain and cool temperatures that we had been experiencing, wet suit legal was a must for me! The weather on race day was looking really dismal. We had finally crept out of the continuous rain period, but it was planned to make a re-appearance for pretty much the entire weekend. For me and Tony, it would be a race morning decision (a cold and rainy race day would zap a lot of the fun out of the event). I had planned my run training accordingly during the week and moved my long run from Saturday to previous Wednesday and would use my run at Throwdown as my tempo run for the week.
Saturday morning, we woke and checked the weather. It looked clear up until late-morning! It was a go for us! The extra fun thing about Throwdown this go-around was that Tony was racing and the handicap system had me starting 10 minutes before him. Automatically, that makes me his “rabbit”….essentially his mission was to chase me down and make the pass! This would be interesting!
The swim was cool…temperature wise. It was around 68 degrees, which is not to my liking (I am a wuss with cold swims!). Despite this, I had an okay swim (750 meters), but felt chilly most of the time. I was looking forward to the bike, because I had a new toy to try! For my birthday, Tony REALLY spoiled me and surprised me with the Garmin Vector 2S (power meter in the pedals).
This was the first ride where I would be using them. The out and back format allows you to keep an eye on how people are progressing behind you. So, when I passed Tony on my way back into the T2, I knew that he was making up the time gap.
The run is also an out and back and is fun to see everyone else during the 5K. I also knew where Tony was in his mission to catch me and the last time I saw him, I told him to SLOW DOWN! I had this strong feeling that I would see him again and it would be as he made the pass!
I was nearing the finish line and as I passed one of my buddies that was volunteering, I asked him if Tony was behind me within sight. He said “YES”!!! Our friends that were out racing or volunteering knew of the fun challenge Tony and I had going on, so everyone was cheering for me to run faster because he was really gaining on me! I was determined to cross the finish line first and I turned it up a notch for the last bit! I did it and crossed just a few seconds before him! It was a lot of fun and the friendly challenge between me and my hubbie made it even more fun.
After the race, we headed over to the restaurant for the after party and rain started to fall literally as we pulled into the parking lot. We really got lucky with the weather for the race! It ended up raining for the rest of the day. While at the after party, we all ate, drank and started watching the live coverage from Kona of the Ironman World Championships. Afterwards, we headed home, cleaned up and continued to watch the coverage for the rest of the afternoon. What a fun day!
This Olympic distance triathlon, held Saturday September 12, was located in the Outer Banks (OBX) of NC, so we planned a bit of a weekend get-away associated with the race. I took ½ day vacation from work on Friday and Tony and I hit the road around 1:00 on Friday afternoon. The drive was a little over three hours, so not bad. It was a pretty day.
We arrived a bit after 4:00, which was good timing, considering the draw bridge delay. We drove to packet pick-up and walked around some to get my bearings. Tony nor I had ever raced this event, so the logistics were unfamiliar. One of the cool things about the venue is that it is located beside the local airport, which Tony really got a kick out of, since he is a private pilot.
From my experience, most race directors will post/announce a preliminary water temperature a couple of days before the event. There was one post on Facebook stating that the race was typically wetsuit legal, but they did not have plans to announce water temperature until race morning. I thought it would be nearly impossible for it to be wetsuit legal, but I brought mine just in case. At packet pick-up, I put my feet in the water and I thought it felt nice and warm (and I don’t like cold water). Before we left, I asked what the water temperature was and the word was 74 degrees (which would be wetsuit legal). I could not believe it!
After checking into the hotel we paired up with one of my training buds, Bill and his wife Paige who was at the same hotel. We decided to grab dinner and three of the four of us got fish tacos which were delicious. We did not stay up late knowing there was an early alarm on the horizon.
The drive to the race venue was about 30 minutes. That should have given me enough time to get woken up and in race mode, but still being that early in the morning, it took even more time…which is normal. We arrived with plenty of time to get transition set up and everything taken care of. Once we arrived, we heard announcements that the water temperature was over 78 degrees and therefore not wetsuit legal. I found the “change” in temperature from the day before to be quite interesting!
Transition closed at 6:45. There was also a half Iron distance race, which started at 7:00. The first swim wave for the Olympic did not go off until 7:45, so we had lots of waiting. Once again, there was several people racing from the Trilife store team, so most of us congregated and passed the time.
As we were waiting around, one of the things that was on my mind was the choppiness of the water. It looked as if I had a challenging swim ahead of me. I tried not to focus on this, but it was hard not to.
One thing I had realized about this swim is that I was going to experience something that was so very unusual and unlike anything I had ever experienced before. From watching several swim waves start before me, what we were seeing from the shore is that the water was very shallow up until about the first sight buoy. Because of these, the swimmers were walking! WHAT?!?! YEP!
Before I knew it, I was lining up as my swim start time was approaching. I knew these conditions were not to my favor and even though I am not a quick swimmer, I can hold my own in the water and I could handle this! This is what I told myself and all of this is true.
As we started, my wave of white caps (pretty ironic given the choppiness of the water) did what most that had proceeded us had done. We began by walking and I figured I would do just that until it made sense to start swimming. The group all pretty much stayed together. It then occurred to me to check my Gamin so I would know (for fun) how long we actually walked. So, just before I started swimming, I glanced down and it was just shy of 150 yards. Craziness!
As I tried to begin swimming, the conditions of the water were quickly realized. Swimming out was a real challenge. Swimming freestyle included salt water splashing into my face as I took a breath (both sides) and as I tried to sight, I could not see over the wave that was coming toward me. I started doing the breast stroke (or my version of this) and I felt like I was in better shape to take this approach for a bit, I was not swallowing water and since I could see the waves with my head up, I could navigate the choppiness better and make progress instead of the waves pushing me back. I would resort back to freestyle now and again and truly felt like I was fighting a losing battle. There was a girl in front of me trying her best to maintain freestyle but she certainly did not gain any distance on me. I noticed a boat (after first smelling the fumes) approaching closer to the swimmers and it appeared to me that they were pulling a swimmer out of the water.
As I made it to the first turn buoy, I was feeling ok. Progress was being made and I was not feeling defeated. As I made the turn, I started back to freestyle. At this point, it was better since we were swimming in a different direction. I was not fighting the waves as bad, even though sighting was still hit or miss (sometimes I could spot the buoy and sometimes my glance would not allow me to see over the wave). I would feel some relief for a bit and then the churn would hit again. Head down and just swim…this is what I did. As I hit the last sight buoy, I was getting excited that I was making my way to shore. The turn at the buoy was a very sharp one to get in line and in the right direction. It took me several glances to find my direction. I continued on and even though the swim to shore felt like it was taking forever, I was feeling ok. As I took some breaths to the right I saw at least one person stop to take a break with a kayak. As I neared the shore, the shallowness was not as far out as with the start. I swam fairly close to shore, before finding my feet and the slippery ground. I was glad to be heading to T1. This swim was certainly one that I will remember!
The run to T1 was not too bad. It was rather long, but mostly on grass, so no complaints there. A lady had taped a large silk flower on her bike rack, which was the one beside mine, so it was super easy to find! I had the spot on the end as well, so all good in T1.
The road going out was covered with pot holes. I knew this from driving in the day before. Orange paint had been used to mark them and they did a thorough job, so the road was pretty much covered in orange markings! I was anxious to make the left hand turn off this road…when this happened, I thought I would have relief. Well, the road was rutted, so there were regular cadence of bumping for a while. Not fun. This section came up to the bridge that was a few miles long that crossed the water. This had the only real hill on the course. I felt the wind on the bridge for sure. I tried to keep my MPH up, but I was definitely affected by the wind. A short bit after coming off the bridge there was a right hand turn and that is where I felt some relief in the form of a tailwind. YAY! It helped me cruise a bit before a right bend in the road made it disappear. It was an out and back course, and I was fortunate to see others that I knew…the half course covered the Olympic (plus some), so there were plenty of people to see. Coming in was much of the same, but I did feel some favorability on the bridge this time which allowed me to enjoy the views more. Very pretty!
Into T2 and got ready for the run.
I did not really know what to expect of the route/course, but I had read there was a good amount of shade. As it started, the run went on a path that was a combination of grass, sand and gravel. UGH! I did not like this. It seemed to go on and on…I wanted pavement! It was about a mile of that uneven terrain. I was relieved when we finally hit the road. I could fall into a more regular pace and not worry as much about my footing. Had not yet found the shade that was advertised and was starting to feel hot quickly. The aide stations were very regular and I took advantage of drinking Gatorade and pouring the (cool) water over my head. Walked just a bit at every station to grab cups and drink/pour. As we approached the latter half of the out and back course, there was finally some shade therefore, some relief. After the turn around, the run back in was pretty much the same…trying to hold pace and being smart at the aide stations. There were times where I wanted to walk, but I only allowed myself to do this for a few seconds at the aide stations. I began looking forward to the grassy section in some respect, because I knew that meant I was getting close, but dreaded the terrain all at the same time.
As I was within the last mile, I saw three folks that I knew, Colin, Derek and Heather, that were just starting the run course for the half distance. That gave me a boost as I knew they had a more difficult test in front of them and I was close to completing mine.
As I ran down the finish chute I spotted Tony and Paige, both of which were behind their camera. Yes! I was done. Tony quickly found me and a cold drink was first on the agenda. Within a couple of minutes I located a few of the guys that had already finished and learned that we could check for our times on laptops provided. Tony and I did just that and I learned (and was SHOCKED) to see that I was the first finisher in my age group of 40-44. WOOHOO!!
After everyone had finished we took a few pics of the Olympic finishers and then waited around for awards.
I could not pass up the chance to enjoy a “podium finish”!
Post-race, a group of us grabbed lunch which included my traditional celebratory milkshake.
Early afternoon was not as nice as we had some rain move through, which interfered with plans for some beach time. Later in the day we headed out to a beach house where much of our group was congregating for some indoor fun. We had some celebratory beverages and some good laughs. The evening ended with the four of us grabbing a nice seafood dinner.
Sunday morning started with a nice stroll on the beach. I just could not pass up the opportunity to begin the day with my feet in the sand and the smell of the salt air.
Breakfast followed complete with eggs and pancakes and then Tony and I hit to road to return to Raleigh. It was a great weekend and I am very pleased overall with my race. Even though there are times when I look back and think I could have done something different…maybe pushed a bit harder on the bike or the swim, I know that I put my whole heart into the race and I more than met my goal of going sub-3 hours with my 2:52:04 time. Even though I didn’t prefer this course and probably would not race it again, I was successful and had a super fun weekend!
The Sunday of Labor Day weekend was the September edition of “Throwdown”. If you missed my previous report of Throwdown, I will quickly re-summarize. Throwdown is an event, open to all, that is produced by the owner of my local Tri Shop, Trilife. It is a “mock race” that is a sprint distance triathlon. This month’s event grew to 20 participants from 16 in August. If it had not been a long holiday weekend, I know there would have been an even greater participation increase.
Last month when the event was held, we all started the swim together. The idea for a while, has been that they would develop a handicap system whereas past race results dictate your start time and hypothetically anyone can cross the finish line first (not necessarily the fastest of the day, but cross first). So, with this system, the fastest racer actually started last. In this case, we are fortunate to have the Men’s Age Group 30-34 National Sprint Champion in Raleigh and he has a large presence at Trilife. It was a given that he would have the fastest time of the day, so most of us were racing to try to cross the finish before he did. Given the prior weekend was my last race (and I pushed hard) and the coming up weekend was my next race, I decided not to go all out and push too hard. I still wanted to have a good effort, but keep everything at an appropriate level.
This swim course had improved as they added a site buoy and a turnaround buoy. There were also THREE kayakers on the lake and at some points, this meant more serving as safety patrol than actual swimmers! I started around 39 minutes after the first swimmer (don’t remember exactly). Tony decided to not participate this month due to how he was feeling after his long run the day before, so he was monitoring the time in order to get each swimmer started correctly. The sighting was decent and I felt good during the swim. The swim was on a different section of the lake than the prior month and the run into T1 was a bit unfavorable to the feet. Most of us ended up leaving our flip flops out to put on after coming out of the water. I really didn’t want to get something stuck in my foot.
I felt good on the bike. I stayed with the plan and did not push too hard and found a good pace to maintain throughout. I was lucky that I did not miss one of the turnarounds, like one of my training buds did. The cone that had been placed was gone, but I did see the pavement markings. T2 was weird. I say this because I was the only person in transition and the “crowd” watched. I don’t love T2, because putting on socks is always a struggle, but I definitely felt all eyes on me. Everyone was cool and supportive, but I did feel a little pressure (from myself) for a fast transition.
The run out of transition is the least enjoyable part. There is a hill that definitely puts you in check and I just took it smooth and steady. I found my legs and as with the bike, I stuck to my plan on the run…to settle in a good pace. The fastest guys on the bike came flying in as I was just under a mile in. They were smokin’!! I knew it was a matter of (a little bit of) time before I saw them again! After the turn around, I saw our “speedy Gonzales” and even though I was still hanging on to hope that I would not get passed, it was inevitable. The one thing about super quick runners, is that they (somehow) make it look so effortless…so smooth and confident. He passed me at mile 2.75 of the 5K run, but somehow I did not mind because it is cool to watch someone like him run.
Back down the hill for a strong finish and another fun Throwdown was in the books. It was cool to have folks waiting to cheer me on and then we all cheered on all the other finishers.
Luckily I wore my Gamin and was diligent in starting at exactly the right time and stopping at exactly the right time (even though I did not get all my other splits lapped correctly). There were issues with the time for three of us (still working out a few kinks) and since they were just reporting total time, they used my Gamin as official finish time (1:26:53). The after party was pizza and beer at a local brewery. Already looking forward to the October date!