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Going into this season of Ironman training, I was not sure what, if any, races I would participate in for a lead up to race day.  When I raced Lake Placid in 2014, I did not race a half prior to.  I didn’t necessarily feel that I was at a disadvantage, but it’s never a bad idea to dust off the cobwebs and feel those pre-race nerves once in the season prior to your “A” race.  Having Raleigh 70.3 in your backyard certainly gives one obvious choice for a half IM.  However, having done that race three times (and the brutally hot run), I was not super anxious to give it another go this year.  Unfortunately, the final running of Raleigh 70.3 happened this year and I won’t have the opportunity for a fourth go, which I had wanted to do at some point.

I read about a half iron distance race called Mountains to Main Street in Greenville, SC and it peaked my interest.  Timing wise it would fit into the training calendar very well, plus it was two weeks earlier than Raleigh 70.3 which gave some hope that this race would be a bit cooler and wet suit legal.  I was not able to find out a lot about the race (specifically race reports) for several reasons.  It is a much smaller race than any IM 70.3, 2016 was the inaugural year and the 2017 edition was cancelled due to severe weather.   I did learn that the bike course was new for 2018, so the little I did find about the race was not helpful for insight into the bike.  Weighing the pros and cons with my training partner, Bill and I decided to give it a go.  We did know that this bike course would be challenging given the elevation gain published about the route, which would be good training for IMMT.  This was also my sixth 70.3 distance and a new race experience was appealing.

One side note to add is that about 10 days before the race I started having some pain in my right foot.  It was in the area of the inside of the low ankle above the heel.  In the past, now and again, I have had soreness in my Achilles, but I would give it some TLC and within a couple of days, it would subside.  At first I thought this was the same, but I gradually realized that it was not!  The Monday before the race I saw my PT and by this point I was not walking too well.    I was better upon leaving the PT and adhered to his follow up instructions during the week.  I had already decided that there were be no running during the taper week in hopes that I could get back on track.  On the day we traveled, I was still not at the point I wanted to be as far as feeling ready to run.  In some odd fashion, the pain/tenderness and actually crept over to the outside/right side of my foot as well!  I was trying to not stress over it but knew that there was a chance that I would not run on Saturday.

The four of us drove/rode down together from Raleigh early Friday morning.  There was some rain along the way, but we still had our fingers crossed for a drier day Saturday (race day).  With a car full, the drive passed quickly as we chatted the entire drive.  We drove directly to packet pickup which was at a really nice Tri Store (Carolina Triathlon) in Greenville, SC (even though I was really confused with the tag line on the store’s sign that said “run, bike, swim”…).

After packet pickup, we grabbed lunch at a really nice spot downtown where we sat outside and enjoyed a nice afternoon as the rain had moved out for a while and we was a really pleasant afternoon.  Post lunch, we checked into the Air BnB house which we were all sharing, dumped our gear and then headed out to drive the bike course.  Since this was a point to point race, we had to drive (about 50 minutes) out to the swim start which was also the bike start.  We were able to get the lay of the land for the swim course, T1, etc.  We also had a chat with a racer that we saw finish up a swim in the lake.  We asked him his opinion on the water temperature as we saw that he swam with a full sleeved wet suit (the water temperature had already been announced as wetsuit legal for the race at 77 degrees so I was on the fence about wearing my new full sleeved suit (which is what I wanted to wear since I had only worn it a few times so far) or my ol’ reliable sleeveless since it was on the high side of being wetsuit legal).  The recon for the bike course went well.  So glad we took the time to drive it and there were lots of areas to keep in mind (for safety, strategy, etc).  After the drive, it was back to the house for race prep, out for pasta dinner, finalize last minute gear details and then off to bed with an early alarm on the horizon!

We were fortunate enough to have wonderful Sherpas for race day (Tony and Paige).  This allowed us to drive/ride to the swim start (and not rely on the shuttle) and have our bikes with us on race morning (instead of leaving them in T1 overnight in the rain).  We arrived and had plenty of time to spare, which was awesome because I still felt asleep after arriving to the park despite a longish drive!!  I also had lots of time to get my wetsuit on, which was needed.  Despite a warmer water temperature, I decided to wear my “new this season” full sleeved wetsuit.  I packed my sleeveless, but the main reason I purchased the sleeved was for IMMT and since I was mainly doing this race as training, I wanted to use the same gear.  I have trained a few times in this wetsuit, but it definitely MUCH more difficult to get on (and position correctly) than my sleeveless (which has broken in after several seasons).

Getting the wetsuit on

The swim took place in Lake Keowee which is located in South Cove County Part in Seneca, SC.  It was a really nice park and the water was very calm for race day.  I lined up on the far left side, which gave me good position for sighting and my best approach to streamline my swim course (and stay as straight as possible).

Its almost “GO” time!

After I was able to get my swim going and felt warmed up, I was able to get in a very good rhythm and had a smooth swim overall.  Little contact with the other swimmers (bonus for small races) and buoys allowed for plenty of visibility.  Only once do I recall getting off track and that was at one of the turn buoys and I was a bit too aggressive with the turn.

First race in the new wetsuit!

I  was pleased with my swim execution and overall, I think this was my best 70.3 swim as well as the best 70.3 swim venue I have experienced.

Onto the bike.

We were not on course too long before I tucked away my sunglasses and knew rain was going to be a factor.  Throughout the bike, the rain was not crazy intense, but enough to cause slick roads with hazardous descents.  This made the course even more interesting than it would have on a dry day.

A wet day!

When we drove the course on Friday, there were several areas of pavement that we knew were not great.  However, with the bike, the “not great” quickly turned into “poor”.  A great majority of the course had poor to terrible road conditions (the race web site describes the road conditions as good to ideal…????  If this was good to ideal in SC, I would hate to see bad!!!).  There were some sections that met the “not great” criteria, but this was in the minority.  I have ridden plenty of crummy roads in training and racing, but you eventually get relief when you turn a corner or just finally get lucky with some smooth pavement.  We did not have too much luck in that department on this ride.

First race for the Purple Butterfly!

There was also A LOT of climbing on this course (around 3700 feet), which we were expecting.  However, the huge challenge came on the descents.  Any opportunity to gain speed or momentum, was cut short due to slick roads or just the nature of the course being downhill and ending at a stop sign or a turn with no room to gain speed.  I had to break much earlier than normal to feel as if I had a safe stopping distance on most of these downhills.  The course was also long, which we knew it to be advertised at 58 miles (my Garmin actually captured over 59 miles).

Trying my best to cruise along on the unfortunate road conditions

The great thing about this course was that since it was a small race over 59 miles, it was not crowded so Tony and Paige were able to make frequent stops, take a lot of pictures, cheer us on, and even stop oncoming traffic at an intersection where there was no police presence!  Needless to say, unlike the swim, this was not my favorite bike course and I was more than ready to wrap it up!

As I started the run, the big question mark of the day remained.  Would I be able to get through 13.1 miles after the soreness I had been experiencing?  I wanted to give it enough of a go to allow my foot to warm up and transition from the bike to the impact of the run before I made the decision.  The first two miles were tough and I was really on the fence (even stopped a couple of times), but it loosened up and I felt good enough to continue.  I found my consistency and only briefly walked at the aid stations (to supplement the Infinit in my hand held with necessary water).  The start of the run was briefly on packed dirt before it transitioned over to a paved greenway/trail system (called the GHS Swamp Rabbit Trail).  It was a two loop run with the turn-around points at miles 3.6, 6.2 & 9.0.

Starting out on the run and pulling out the sunglasses

As our luck would have it (or really not), the rain stopped and the sunglasses came back out just in time to start running!  OF COURSE!!  The run did get warm, but it was not horribly intense as some races I have done (not to specifically name Raleigh 70.3, but I can’t help myself).  The trail system did provide some shady areas which is always appreciated!

Enjoyed the shade when I could!

I really liked the run course and will say that it is one of the best for this distance I have experienced.  The trail system is open to pedestrians, but I didn’t have a problem with this at all.

I was happy to see Tony as frequently as I did!

The fun part is that Tony retrieved my bike from transition (using the buddy pass) and rode it down on the trail to lend some encouragement and snap a few photos.

Great run course!

 

 

Feeling a bit warm here!

The last couple miles seemed to last forever.After completing the loop section, you veer off, still on the trail, but are headed downtown towards the finish line.  At this point, there were far fewer races and the course was not marked too frequently.

At a couple of points, I wondered if I was still on course!  As I was close to 13.1, I still could not see a finish line, hear music, etc, and I was SO READY to be done.

Finally close to the finish line!

I finally emerged off the trail, did some looping around, crossed a bridge and the finish line was in sight!  13.28 miles and I was done!

The finish line was so sweet!

DONE!

I was excited to learn that I grabbed second in my age group.  This was definitely not a personal best race for me, but it was very beneficial in my Ironman training and experiencing a new course it is great opportunity.

2nd place in AG!

It is so unfortunate that the road conditions are so poor because the swim and run courses are really great.  The climbing was a great challenge and I would jump at the chance to give it another go (and hope for a dry day), but there is no way I would be in for another 59 miles on those roads.  It was nice to support a local race and there are some great benefits, but this one is not one I will be looking to redo.

Garmin data

Safely in 2nd….not too close to 1st and good cushion over 3rd

Post-race was crazy easy!  Tony and Paige had already gathered ALL our gear and all we had to do was walk to the car!  WHAT?!?!?  Yes, BEST SHERPAS EVER!!!   We enjoyed some down time and relaxation before celebrating with dinner, drinks and my customary milkshake!!!

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As triathlon became such a big part in my life, one of the things I fell in love with was what it does for me, both physically, mentally and emotionally.  After a bad day, there is no other thing I would rather do was get in a good solid training session to help me work out my frustrations or clear my mind.  It is my therapy and my outlet.

When you are training for an Ironman, sometimes you have to dig deep to find the motivation for your next workout. My training this month kind of had a different motivation….therapy.  I had some personal tragedy recently and my training has been a huge part of my getting through some very tough days these last few weeks.

There were a few days when my training was one of the only things that seemed to make sense. While my heartache will never completely go away, I know that I have a very healthy way to try to deal with some crazy emotions.  I am grateful to have this outlet….my therapy.

After a tough swim/run I had to put my legs up and was treated to this amazing view. These few minutes allowed me to regain perspective and engage in some personal reflection.

Highlights from the month:

*Knocking out a long run one morning before work.  My training buddy Bill and I decided to adjust the schedule and complete an 11 mile run early.  I was happy with the adjustment and was able to have more time during the day to get in rehydration and some much needed stretching and recovery (NormaTec boots!!!)  that evening.

*I have loved my new bike since I rode it for the very first time.  However, since I have only been riding it on the road and utilizing my Cannondale for trainer rides, I have finally put in enough miles to really be comfortable on my Trek.  Generally the biggest differences are in my position and the electronic shifting (amazing).  The shifting has now become more second nature (so I don’t have to think so much).  I am very happy to have the “Purple Butterfly”!!

*I had my first triathlon of the season.  It was a small half iron distance race in Greenville, SC called “Mountains to Main Street”.  The timing of this race fit perfectly in the training schedule plus it had a challenging bike course that would provide some solid climbing/training.  This was the first (and likely last) time for this this race, but it was very beneficial to gauge fitness, nutrition, etc for a little over 3 months away from IMMT.  **Race report to come!!**

Lowlights from the month:

*I had an FTP “re-test” on the first Monday of this four-week block and it did not go as expected.  In hindsight, I was able to identify some things that did not help me with my recovery from the weekend workouts and things I would definitely do differently, but it is always about learning and growing.

*I started having some foot/ankle issues that kind of came out of the blue.  The week before my first race it had gotten bad and I was very concerned.  I saw my PT and babied it all before the race (no running that week) in hopes that it would be ok race day.  All the details will be in my race report, but I was able to get through the run without too much discomfort or concern that I was making anything worse.  The week after I saw my PT, massage therapist and I really focused on recovery (I think my massage therapist did wonders for it).  I only had one run (that I ended up cutting short) to gauge how it was doing post-race. I believe I am through the worse of whatever made this “issue” come up, but definitely gives me something else to have to really concentrate on to “keep happy”.

Three months down and three months to go for Ironman Mont Tremblant.  HALF WAY THERE!!!!

Month #3 Totals:

Swim: 26,187 yards (14.9 miles)

Bike: 384 miles

Run: 57 miles

Other: Only one 30 minute yoga session (need to do better!!!)

One Half Iron Distance Race

Total Time: 41 hours 18 minutes

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At the mention of me training for Ironman, someone recently asked me if I was excited.  My answer was “I will be”.  I have actually thought about that question and my answer several times since the discussion.  I don’t think I have been asked that before, so I was not sure how to answer.  Should I be excited at this point?  Well….I don’t know.  Should I be excited about something whose preparation is a big part of my daily thoughts and activities as well as a factor in everyday decisions?  I have never thought about it this way and so I did.

I have always been pretty open that I don’t necessarily love to race.  I do love to train.  Don’t get me wrong….there are lots of days that I want to skip  my session, sleep in or whatever else sounds good at the moment, but the satisfaction I get after my workout, makes it all worth it.  The PROCESS of the training, the growth that happens along the way, the obstacles you overcome, kicking ass on days where you thought it was impossible, is where I find my niche that keeps me in this sport.  Sure, I love having the goal of race day to drive me in my training and to motivate me to do my best, but the ratio of hours spent training to hours spent racing, are tremendously skewed…in my favor, thank goodness.  I certainly have a competitive nature within that comes out during the race, but ultimately, more than anything, I want my race, any race, to be a performance of all the hours and sweat equity invested in the weeks and months leading up to the big day.  If I can deliver my best and, in a way, celebrate the training cycle by putting it all out there, I am happy.

There are definitely athletes out there that get a tremendous rush on race morning and feed off that adrenalin.  Once my race morning is here, the nervous energy that is present is what makes me ready to get on with the show.  The waiting around and the preparation race morning is definitely not my favorite time.  So….back to the original question…”AM I EXCITED ABOUT IRONMAN”?

I am excited about the opportunities, growth and strength (both mental and physical) that training for Ironman will bring.  I am excited about the being ABLE to train and the idea of getting to the starting line healthy and PREPARED to tackle to day.  I am excited about the time that I will get to spend with some like-minded individuals (and all around cool people) that share the same Ironman goal and think that getting up at the crack of dawn to run track intervals or jump in a cold lake is “normal”.

I am excited about racing with these people and being able to see each other during the race to make the day even more special.  I am excited about giving this goal my ALL and making Tony and the rest of my cheerleaders proud when I go for it and ultimately cross that finish line.  In hindsight, I think my gut reaction answer was kind of right….I AM excited but I WILL be even more excited on August 19.

Highlights from the month:

*After the catastrophe from training week #4 when took the Purple Butterfly out for the inaugural ride, I finally was able to get in a successful 46 mile ride during week #5.

It took some intense planning, but we made it work.  Saturdays are when we typically ride and the forecast called for heavy rain MOST of that Saturday.  It was looking very unlikely to get in a ride outside.  While Fridays are typically the rest day, we decided to fit in the ride after work on Friday to be able to get outside.  SUCCESS!!!  (It did rain alot on Saturday!!)

*Hill Repeats – While this is not something I love, I knocked out a good hill repeat session on the treadmill.  I have not done this type of workout in a long time and it was nice to get one done as I know we will have more to come to prepare for MT!

*Getting back to regular track workouts with the team.  Thursdays are track during the season while during the winter we do stair workouts.  These stair workouts are an awesome challenge themselves but the weather delayed our start of track a couple of weeks so we were ready to get these going!

 

*Getting in our first open water swim of the season!  Over the winter I purchased a new wetsuit (sleeved) and with our first tri of the season in just a few weeks, we were ready to get in that first OWS to wash away those cob webs.  It was a bit cooler than I would prefer, but I allowed my “minimum” temp drop a couple of degrees because I had sleeves.  Thank goodness I did, because I was still cold….think the water was probably 65/66 degrees.  I am very sensitive to the cold water, but I needed to get in and do my best.  It was not a great swim, but I was glad to get it done and have a check mark in that box!

*When training schedules line up with some other tri club peeps resulting in a great training group for a solid ride/run session!

Lowlights from the month:

*Week #6 brought in the struggle bus for a couple of my trainer rides.  I had three Trainer Road sessions that week that really kicked my ass.  I gave it all I had and that I can’t ask anything more.  I was glad when I finally got off that bus!

*A flooded greenway totally screwed up my plans for a Friday morning outside ride.  Here’s the story….Tony had Xterra Myrtle Beach on his race calendar.  Our plan was to travel down on Friday afternoon, hang out Saturday and then the race on Sunday.  I knew I needed to shift some things on the training schedule to get in my time.  After much consideration of all the options, I decided that I would push my planned rest day to Sunday (usually Friday), do my long ride Friday morning before we left town and then do my run Saturday morning (easy to fit in out of town).  With a 60 mile ride scheduled, I knew that I needed to get an early start Friday morning and since it is the last day of the work week, I planned to ride by myself on the greenway.  (I don’t usually bike on the greenway, but spend a lot of miles running there.  Since (1). I don’t ride on the road solo, due to safety reasons and (2). My start time would be during early commute hours, the greenway seemed like the best and safest option to get in my ride outside. It would be quiet that time of day and I really didn’t want another long ride on the trainer.)  After mentioning my plan to one of my training partners, she said that she would like to join me as she had a flexible work schedule that day.   Awesome!  We planned to meet at 7:00am and that morning was COLD!  It was around 36 degrees (while the morning prior at track had been in the 60s).  We were bundled up and ready to tackle this, despite the cold.

I had planned out a great route and was looking forward to it.  We got .45 miles in before we were greeted with flooding.  BUMMER!  It was too deep to try to pass on our bikes, so we turned around and decided to head in the opposite direction which did not have the options to easily get in our needed mileage, but we would make it work. After about 2 miles in that direction, we reached more flooding and this was even worse!  WHAT A DOWNER!

We could drive to another entrance point on the greenway passed the flooding, but there was no way of knowing if and where there would be more obstacles.  After pretty quick consideration, we decided to head to my house and put in the time on the trainer.  April could use Tony’s trainer and we would persevere!  Thanks goodness April had decided to meet me for that ride and then agreed to trainer it with me.  We got in 3 hours and 31 minutes together (previous longest time was 3 hours 30 minutes 🙂 ) and having her there to pass the hours made it possible!  #noexcuses  #overcometheobstacles #traineroad

Month #2 Totals:

Swim: 27,959 (15.89 miles)

Bike: 395 miles

Run: 53 miles

Other: 2 strength and 3 yoga sessions (2.25 hours)

Total Time: 47 hours 24 minutes

 

 

 

 

 

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Time goes by so quickly.  As I have gotten older, this is more true every year.  There are times of course when the time can’t pass quickly enough….when you are at work on Friday afternoon of an upcoming holiday weekend or when you are pushing through a hard two minute FTP %+++ interval on the bike, but generally speaking, there is not enough of this precious commodity.  We spend day after day balancing out our time between family, work, training, etc. and some days it is way more challenging than others.  This is one reason why I thought long and hard before committing to Ironman #2.

The first time back in 2014, I knew that it would be a huge time commitment.  But, now having that experience, I know even more of what some of those tough days are REALLY like.  It is not just a huge impact on me, but on Tony as well.  He is “in” it with me for the craziness that Ironman training brings to everyday life.  Hopefully, since I have training partners that are racing as well, Tony’s “in” does not equate to as many long bike rides as it did in 2014, but regardless, he knows what this six month training plan means.

The “official” plan began on March 5.With all the upcoming spring and summer training, there will not be too much free time to get out of town for vacations or long weekends.  We will definitely work in lots of together time, but I imagine most of it will be around Raleigh.   Before the plan kicked in, we took an all-inclusive vacation in Mexico to chill, spend time with each other and soak in some sun.  That get-away was a great idea and I am glad we made it happen.  It was just what we needed.

Relaxing in Playa del Carmen

The first (of six) 4-week training blocks is in the books.  I tried to take one workout at a time and that’s my game plan for the next five months as well.  My swim, bike and run plan has been created from a few different sources and I am utilizing Trainer Road for any of the trainer rides on my plan (which have been ALL for this first four weeks).  I am using the specific IM plan in the app to choose the rides.

Since I started using Trainer Road a bit over a year ago, I have been a fan.  Honestly it is a love/hate relationship, because I have had plenty of rides that have kicked my ass, but I know it is good for me in the long haul.  I think it is an excellent tool and will prove very beneficial this year.

The Trainer Road plan was actually 4 weeks longer than the planned 24-week plan.  Therefore, we started a 4-week base plan prior to March 5. lt certainly started off with a bang!  The first workout in the first week was an FTP test on the bike.  I have not taken a FTP test since I was training for Chattanooga 70.3 last spring.  I was very happy that my results put me right where I was half way through that training plan.  I have a lot of time on the bike in front of me and I look forward to the gains I will be making.

Highlights from the month:

*Completing the longest two trainer rides I have ever done!  Due to the aforementioned unpleasant weather, week one had us on the bike for 3 hours 15 minutes.  Prior to that, the longest trainer ride I had completed was 2.5 hours.  Week three had us on the bike for 3.5 hours.  A new record just 2 weeks later!  Luckily, I have training partners and we endured this total of 6.75 hours together!

Our 3 hour 15 minute trainer ride! Thank goodness Bill and April joined in!

3.5 hours on the trainer! Once again, it was bearable with my awesome training partners!

*Hitting 4 rides in week two…the plan calls for 4 rides some weeks and I have not done this in a very long time (I am guessing since 2014)!  Three of them happened during the workweek so it took a bit more mental commitment than even physical, but it will pay off!

*Getting back outside for a long run = Week three’s 8 mile run was back outside.  A dry day allowed me to get off the treadmill and onto the greenway.

*Tony has been able to capture some good video in the pool to allow me to focus on some much needed areas of improvement.

*The time change!  It’s nice to have daylight when I get off work!

*The last Saturday of the month called for a dry day and decent temperatures to get outside for the first time this year and the take my new bike for her inaugural ride!

The Purple Butterfly was ready to hit the road!

Obstacles from the month:

*More cold weather than we should have in NC in March!  Plus it seemed like the rain always waited for the weekends!

*The outside bike ride that I was so excited about lasted about 4 miles until I was standing on the side of the road with a broken chain and front derailleur.  Needless to say, I was MAJORLY bummed!  My ride companions, Bill & Derek, worked to try to fix my chain (before the realization that the front derailleur was toast), and had an amazing effort in doing so.

Bill & Derek working on my bike roadside.

For the first time ever in my experience of riding bikes, I had to call for a ride home.  Since Tony was out of town, our neighbor David came to my rescue.  During all this drama, the help I got to try to repair the chain and the ultimate ride home were indeed highlights and the reminder that I have awesome people in my life!

Not the bike ride I had imagined, but lucky to have a ride home!

*Getting chased by a dog on my brick run.  The drama continued after my bike mishap.  After making it home, I got on the trainer (after figuring out how to change my pedals….Tony is my very relied upon bike mechanic) and got in my ride.  Then I had a 3 mile brick run which I did outside.  I was chased by a little dog on a road that I frequently run.  It was quite the day, and I really felt like the odds were not in my favor, but I got my training in and then spent the next 1.5 hours getting a crazy good massage.   #overcometheobstacles

Month #1 Totals:

Swim: 29,400 yards (16.7 miles)

Bike: 331 miles

Run: 47 miles

Other: Strength, Stair Workouts & Yoga (4.25 hours)

Total Time: 44 hours 24 minutes

 

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For several years, I had the idea to get in routine trail runs during the off season.  However, this was something that I had not followed through on.  This year I had the same idea, but I did it. 

After my last triathlon in October, I started getting in a few trail runs here and there and before I knew it, it was in my regular weekly rotation and I was enjoying it. 

My first time in the Salming Elements (right) and I quickly fell in love with them. Tony’s choice is the Salming Trail (left). #nononsense #runswedish

I even took advantage of the open Xterra course when we were in Maui for Tony to race at Worlds.

A very muddy course a few days before Tony’s race

I managed to stayed on course!

Post muddy run and my Salmings helped me stay upright!

 I had tried trail running in the past and I knew that it was a “risky” activity for me.  The very first time I ever ran trails, I fell two or three times.  This was the main reason I had in my mind that this was something I wanted to reserve for the off season.  The trail we run is very technical (and that’s just not my inexperience talking) so it was a big challenge every time I went out.  I am typically one that really likes to “zone out” on my runs, but when running trails, I have to keep my mind in the game and engaged with every step!  However, there is just something about running in the woods that is just good for the soul!   

Over the weeks, I improved and felt more comfortable, but still, was unfortunate enough to have a few painful spills along the way.  Just rub some dirt on it and keep going…..right???

23 degrees didn’t keep us from our weekly trail run (and that’s cold in NC)!

The idea of doing a trail race came up with my training partner and so I thought, why not?  It would be fun to do a new race format and to have a goal tacked on to our off season activity as well as a good way to start 2018.  The UGTB Grindin’ trail race was this past Saturday and it was produced by @fsseries, our local race company, at Harris Lake County Park.  There was a 5 mile or 10 mile race option and most of us opted for the 10 mile option. 

The crew ready to run!

The 10 mile course involved two loops, but not the same loop twice.  The first loop was on the park’s mountain bike trails which are generally not available to runners.  From what I had heard prior going in, these trails would not be as technical as what we had been training on, but still I didn’t really know what to expect. 

The first loop was fun.  It was much less technical, but I liked it a lot.  It was not too rocky and while there were roots you had to keep your eyes open for, the packed dirt course allowed for a bit quicker pace than that from our training.  The course then took us almost back to the start and then on a paved road for a bit longer than what I expected.  We then picked up the second loop which consisted of the running trails.  These were more technical than the bike trail we had just completed and a bit more like our training trails.   

We had a beautiful morning and I had only one big goal going into the race….stay on  my feet!!!  I am happy to say that I accomplished this goal.  I didn’t have a time goal in mind and just wanted to enjoy the format and the day.  Overall my pace was much better than training, but as previously mentioned, this was to be expected due to the difference in the terrain.    

I am glad that we decided to start the season with this race.  More importantly, I am glad that I spent time in the off season rediscovering why  I have been wanting to spend more time on the trails!  

      

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Luckily race day #2 didn’t have to start terribly early.  Start time was 8:30am and the drive would only take 20ish minutes with simple parking logistics.  The morning was even cooler than Saturday and I don’t think most of us were ready for it to be in the low 50s.  While it would give us another beautiful day to race, it was a chilly start for sure!

Tony and I arrived as planned…picked up race packets and quickly spotted the rest of the crew doing their own preparations.  As expected, parking was conveniently located to packet pick-up and transition, which is always a bonus.  Set up went smoothly and once again Tony and I were racked in transition side by side.  We all reconvened with plenty of time to get some pre-race snapshots and then find a spot of sun (we were all cold!!) to wait.

The crew ready for day #2!!

This race was new to all of us racing from the team.  It took place at the Sandling Beach State Recreational Area at Falls Lake.  It is a unique distance…a hybrid between a traditional international distance and a half iron distance.  The distances were 1 mile swim, 40 mile bike and 9 mile run. 

The swim was a time trial start with all participants starting the swim one at a time going off every couple of seconds.  The 2-loop one mile swim was a triangular shaped course with the swim start/finish on a sandy beach area. We swam the first lap of the swim, briefly exited the water, and then re-entered the water to swim the second lap.   By the time we got to the swim, I think we were ready to get in the water since we were all quite chilly.  The water temperature allowed for a wetsuit legal swim, but we knew the water was going to feel nice compared to the morning air temperature

As I began my second day of racing I was not sure how I was going to feel.  I started swimming and realized that I was not feeling that bad!  I was able to get in my groove fairly quickly.  As expected, the water felt amazing, so not a bad start at all!!! 

As I rounded the first turn buoy the water definitely changed.  I could immediately feel the chop and the attempt to swim in a straight line was even more of a challenge than normal because I could feel like I was being pushed out from the buoy line.  I needed to sight more frequently and try my best to compensate for the current.  Overall, I think I did a decent job with the conditions.  As I approached the second turn buoy, I was getting a bit pinched between two men.  One of which decided to try to hammer over me and unfortunately I let that piss me off.  Wasted energy….I just don’t get it though…this is a small race and I certainly didn’t start at the front of the pack to battle the typically more aggressive swimmers!!! 

As I was sighting back into the shore, I was having a bit of trouble seeing the dancing man at the finish line.  After I finally spotted it, I felt like I was back at shore pretty quickly.  I made my way out of the water and just a few seconds out before I was starting the second lap.  This time through was a bit smoother.  I knew exactly what to expect and I did not have any body contact to distract me.  Before I knew it, I was making my way out of Falls Lake for the second time and headed into T1 to strip out of the wetsuit and jump on the bike.              

The 40 mile bike course exited the park where we made our way out onto the course before beginning the two 15.5-mile loops.  The bike course description is described as “rolling”, but definitely includes a couple of pretty challenging hills.  We were fortunate enough to ride the course a couple of times in training, so knew exactly what to expect….including the hills.  I had planned to take the first few miles very easy in order to keep the heart rate in check and try to figure out what I had in my legs for the day.  The loop section starts on Beaverdam Road and this is one stretch I was looking forward to the least.  It does not have the toughest climbs, but it is not flat and ends up being more challenging than you expect as you ride it.  Plus, it feels like it will never end!   I was glad to get though with Beaverdam Road for the first time but also knew at that point that my legs were feeling some fatigue.  I pretty much knew I would not be able to push like I usually like to on the bike…there was still a 9-mile run remaining to complete this double down challenge.  Usually during a race I am very focused on my Garmin data, but decided to take a different approach and really go by feel for the rest of the ride. The hills were just what I knew they would be and I tried to take them as easy as possible, keep the effort at a reasonable level and not spike my heart rate too much.  

The second loop was pretty similar to the first in the way I rode and the level of effort.  I checked my Garmin a few times during the ride, but it was nice to mix things up a bit and not have the extreme focus on the numbers that I typically do.   I was happiest after completing Beaverdam Road for the second time, even though the toughest climbs were still ahead.  There is just something about that stretch of road….

The 9-mile run course stayed completely inside the park boundaries. It was a two loop course with each loop being 4.5 miles, and because the run is entirely on park roads, much of the entire run course is shaded (even though heat was not a factor).  The first mile was tough running off the bike.  I thought, oh no!  This is going to be a very long nine miles!  Before the end of the first mile, I felt like I had a small twig in my sock.  I debated back and forth about whether I should stop and try to clean out my sock and finally decided that was the smart move.  While it did cost me about a minute or so, I think it was the right decision.  After that brief stop during the first mile, I felt like I finally got my legs within the next half mile.  YAY!  I saw Tony and the other guys soon thereafter.

As I progressed on the course I felt like I was able to stay on a pretty consistent pace throughout the nine miles.  I think making the decision to ride by feel on the bike helped me to stay strong on the run.    Overall I liked this run course…there were a few rollers we had to contend with, but nothing too crazy…just enough to keep us honest!  The bonus was the format allowed me to spot my teammates on course.

The finish line was a welcome sight.  Tony was there and I immediately said to him“the off season starts now”!  This back to back race format was certainly a challenge, but I am glad that I tackled it.

Garmin Results which are close to official results

Garmin Run Splits

Post-race included awards where a couple of the guys had podium places, including Tony being awarded third place overall for the double down challenge as there was a separate awards group for the folks that completed both races.  They somehow botched the recognition of the women that completed both races when they announced that only two women had completed it (when there was actually nine and neither I, my teammate April, nor the several women I was standing around were included in the two that were recognized).

Tony on the podium again!

I later learned that I had placed third overall woman of the double down challenge.

Those of us that raced were joined by several others from the team for a cookout there in the park.  It was a gorgeous afternoon and a nice way to celebrate our two day racing affair.

Later that evening Tony and I had a quiet dinner for two sitting outside at our favorite sushi restaurant.  My birthday was celebrated doing something I love to do with great people! What better way to start a new year than challenging yourself to do new things that are tough and outside your comfort zone?  Especially when I can share the experience with my husband and three amazing training partners!  I was thankful to start year 43 this way and know that this will be a fantastic 43!         

 

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After Chattanooga 70.3 in May (which was my season “A” race, at least early season), I was not sure what I would tackle for the rest of the season.  Initially my thought would be some local Olympic distance or sprints.  One of my teammates that has also completed Choo, found a challenge that she threw out to the rest of us.  It was called the “Double Down”.  It was a collaboration between two local production companies.  The FS Series race called the Battle at Buckhorn (sprint) was on Saturday and the Set-Up Events race called the Sandling 50 (not a standard distance race….a total of 50 miles) was on Sunday.  They were offering a super economical price to race both (the total just a bit over the cost of one stand-alone race).  At first I thought…”nope”, but as the time passed through the summer, I thought it might be a cool challenge to go for.  What better way to spend my birthday weekend than racing back to back….right?!?!?!?  In the end, there were five of us that ended up going for the Double Down challenge! 

Welcome to the Battle at Buckhorn!!

Saturday’s race is one of my favorite sprints.  Well now that I mention it, maybe it IS my favorite sprint since I have completed it four times.  In the days leading up to race weekend, I had thought about how I wanted to handle these races.  The final decision was that I would go for the sprint and give it an effort level like it was my only race for the weekend and then just give whatever I had left in the tank for the race Sunday.

Saturday morning was like a typical race morning.  No drama or hiccups….we left (generally) on time and arrived to race parking at the goal time.  The parking is a short-“ish”walk from transition, just still far enough that you need to plan accordingly.  Most of the team arrived within a few minutes of each other and we made our way together. 

Leading up Saturday, we had warmer days, but a couple of the mornings late in the week had temperatures cool enough that we expected a wet suit legal swim.  Also, temperatures for race weekend were expected to drop and feel very “fall like”.  Great racing weather!!!!! 

The Oak City Tri Crew sans April who had to run back to her car for goggles!

The swim included three waves….all women started at 8:00, men 39 & under at 8:07 and men 40 & up and 8:10.  They used the “ladies first” format that they started last year and I am glad they have maintained it rather than the mass start with the guys from a couple of years ago.  The water was 76 degrees and I felt good in the water.  I was able to quickly get my rhythm and maintain it throughout the 750 meter swim.  Plus, I felt like my sighting was really good (big win for me).  According to my Garmin, I swam 841 yards (769 meters).  With the wetsuit, I feel I should have averaged a quicker pace, but I will focus on the positives! 

The 17 mile bike course is fairly typical for our area.  A few rollers, a few flats and one memorable hill.  This year the race company threw in a bit of incentive by making the aforementioned “memorable hill” a Strava segment.  They awarded Queen of the Mountain and King of the Mountain for the first time this year.  The overall female winner won QOM, which is not complete surprise, but it was a neat concept to track. 

I feel like I rode fairly well overall.  The hill is around mile 12 but it was not until after that where I felt like I could really gain extra momentum.  I rode better than last year, but still my PR on the bike course stands from two years ago (and that was a hotter year….ugh!!).

Onto the run. 

The 5k distance in a sprint is never easy and I wanted to see what I had.  My run splits got progressively faster, which I will take.  I was pushing hard and was hoping to squeak out a sub-8 minute average (which was my Garmin PR from AGAIN 2 years ago), but I was happy with my effort.  I knew there were a couple of other girls in my AG really close and I stayed strong.  Little did I know that Tony was making up serious ground on me and passed me just 50 feet or so from the finish chute!  I was happy for him because I successfully served as his “rabbit” which gave him a super run time!!

You can see me in the background here….Tony had just passed me as we entered the finish chute!!!

DONE!

We hung around for awards because we had a couple of podium finishers in the group, including Tony nabbing second in his AG. 

Tony with his buckle for 2nd place AG!

I finished fourth overall in my AG, but was pleased with my race effort and delivery. 

Official Race Results

Official Race Splits

Garmin Times

Garmin Run Splits

The team headed back to Raleigh where we met up for a great brunch (pancakes and French toast everywhere) to discuss our individual experiences and to chat about the longer of the two races the following day.  The rest of the afternoon was all about recovery and being in the best shape we could going into day two!!!     

Day two race report, still to come!!

 

 

 

 

 

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This event is a repeat event for me.  I raced it last year and it was my first Olympic distance in 2011.  Last year there was a lot of uncertainty leading up to the event about the swim.  Due to lack of rain, the water conditions were a concern. In the end we were cleared to have the swim.  Unfortunately, this year was the same, however, it was due to having too much rain.  A email was sent by the race production company on Thursday saying that due to the abundance of rain lately, the results of the water test showed that the conditions were not safe for swimming.  Another test was performed on late Thursday afternoon and we were notified Friday afternoon that the conditions had improved some, but still did not meet the minimum requirements for safety.  The swim was cancelled and would be replaced with a one mile run to start.  Obviously not what we were hoping for, but can only make the best of it!   

The morning began extra early (4:30am) since our drive was around 1 hour 45 minutes.  We left at the time we planned (5:15am) and Tony was sweet enough to act as driver, race sherpa and photographer.  My training partner Bill and his wife, Paige, rode with us, so the drive time passed quickly in the car with lots to chat about.  Race start was 8:00am and we arrived with plenty of time to setup transition and perform all other final preparations for the race (including a running warm-up).  It was overcast and humid with low chances of rain during race hours.  We were all hoping that the clouds would stay in place to help control how hot it would feel as the race progressed.  

Pre-race with my #1

Before we knew it, it was go time!  The start began like it would have if we were swimming.  The Olympic distance men (there was also a sprint race) began at 8:00am and the Olympic distance women began at 8:03am.  I didn’t have a goal pace in mind, but I wanted to get in a solid start.  It was a simple, flat out and back. 

Starting out with the one mile run

I tried to get through T1 as quickly as I could and then onto the bike.  We were lucky enough to still have some cloud cover at that point.  I jumped on my bike and headed out of the park area, which included a few speed bumps.  As suspected, I saw Tony on the way out of the park poised to take a few quick photos. 

Leaving the park to begin the first bike loop

The bike course was a two-loop of the sprint course on flat roads with minimal turns.  The worst part was coming back into the park area to start lap #2 because you had to cross the speed bumps again (both in and out) and make a sharp turn around, therefore losing your momentum.  The design of the course allows you to spot your teammates frequently, which is always a bonus!

There was a noticeable headwind on the way back in from the turnaround for each of the two loops that was definitely a factor.  Not sure that I felt ANY tailwind on the way out though!  I felt strong on the bike and I was working hard!  I was fairly confident that I knew my positioning in my age group when I entered T2.

Finishing the bike

I had a hand held water bottle in T2 and I am glad I did.  By the time we started the run, the earlier cloud cover had burned off.  I don’t prefer to run with a hand held (I use a fuel belt more in training), but this was the easy go to, and I was really glad to have it!  As the run continued, the heat did as well.  The run is a two-loop design through the downtown waterfront area with hardly any shade.  As with the bike, the course design allowed me to see my teammates and we could all pass along words of encouragement or thumbs up.  This is what makes the team events THE BEST!!  The start of the second loop took us back into the park near transition/finish line (this is the only area where there is a bit of shade) where I saw Tony. 

Coming in the start the second loop of the run

I just had in my mind that I was half way done and to stay as strong as possible. 

Enjoying the very brief amount of shade as I pass the half way mark

I was focused on trying a maintain a consistent pace, but I know the mile 4 to 5 was my slowest and that was when I reached the last turn around and all I could think of was how tough the heat and sun were.  I tried to think of Tony’s approach which is the faster I can go, the sooner I will be done! (Fast was definitely relative, but it kept me from slowing down too much).  As always, it was awesome to cross that finish line where I immediately found some shade.

Post race with my Oak City Tri Peeps in our favorite Salming shoes! @salmingrunningnorthamerica #nononense #runswedish

Catching up with my friend MC that I don’t get to see very often.

Garmin Times:  Obviously “unofficial”, but it is important to me because it always gives me a better gauge of my true times, since the distances tend to not be “exact”.   Also, it gives me a better opportunity for analysis.

I was happy with the first mile run that we started the race with.  I started easy and gradually built as I warmed up even more.  As far as the bike, I was able to hit a new PR…it was just a smidge over last year, but a PR is a PR!   As far as the run, I didn’t quite hit the pace I was hoping, even what I was able to do last year, but I know I gave it all I had.  

Garmin Times

 

Garmin Run Splits

Overall, I am happy with the day and was pleased that my official results had me at second place in my age group.

Second Place Age Group

Official Race Splits

Official Finish Times

 

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I feel that Ironman 70.3 Chattanooga was a long time coming.  I really wanted to do this race in 2016, but I missed registration and it sold out.  I knew this race would be on my calendar for 2017 and things turned out even better because I had company!

This is only the second race out of state that I have done.  The other being Ironman Lake Placid.  We are very lucky to have a wide variety of races in North Carolina to choose from.  With that being said, the travel logistics took a bit more time planning and even changed fairly last minute. 

There were five of us from the team racing and we were also traveling with other family members, teammates and friends that were going for support.  Most of us had all planned to leave Friday morning to embark on the 7-8 hour drive from Raleigh to Chattanooga.  The last minute detail that changed is that Tony was able to fly the two of us.  He learned that the plane he flies has backseats that recline.  Therefore, with some consolidation of the bikes, we were able to get both bikes and all our gear in the plane.  Needless to say, that saved us a lot of travel time and added extra adventure to the weekend!

All of gear safely packed for travel!

On our way!

We arrived in Chattanooga around lunch time after around 2 hours of flight time.  After unloading the bikes and all the gear and packing the rental car, we were off!  

First stop was lunch at Big River Brewery in downtown Chattanooga.  We had a nice lunch and ended up being within walking distance of the Athlete Village for check-in.  We decided to go ahead and get that taken care of and since there was no line at all, it was great timing.  There was some shopping as well and I lucked out and found a great shirt on the clearance rack!!!  

Scoping out the river and the swim finish

There was a bit of time to kill since we were not able to check into the rental house yet (the team and crew were staying together for the weekend).  We found a coffee shop that the waitress from lunch had recommended.  It is called Rembrandt’s and we both had a nice cold brew coffee.  Hit the spot! 

When it was time, Tony and I made our way to the house to get settled in.  It would only be an hour or so before others started arriving so it was good to get in, get unpacked and start relaxing.  Over the next few hours, everyone arrived that was supposed to have a Friday arrival.  

View from the porch of the rental house as a barge floated by.

We had a nice evening including dinner outside at a tasty restaurant called Food Works.  It was before crossing the bridge in the downtown area, so we were hoping it would not be crazy busy with all the out of towners.  We had a great table outside and it was a perfect way to officially kick off the weekend!   

I had a great nights’ sleep and woke up Saturday to a beautiful morning.  The morning included breakfast, coffee and lots of conversation about race prep and the day ahead.  There was some discussion about getting in a short swim that morning.  Our house was directly on the river so it would have been super convenient.  In the end, no one ended up swimming and I think that was a good decision…at least for me!  The remainder of the morning was spent prepping our bikes because we had bike drop off later that afternoon.  Everyone had done packet pick up on Friday so that was handled.

Bike prep done and ready to go!!

After bikes were prepped, we all piled into two different cars and drove the bike course.  So glad we made this decision.  I think it helped everyone in different ways, but it was time well spent.  For lunch and we ended up at a place called the Frothy Monkey.  Sandwiches all around and it was a good find.  We headed back to the house to grab our bikes and take them for check in.  With it being hot and also rain in the forecast for overnight (and into race day), we all planned accordingly for leaving our bikes in transition.

All the girls!

Her place for the evening.

Team photo after bike check-in

With all the errands finally done we were at the house to rest, make final preparations and have a great dinner.  Later on in the evening…..it happened.  The heavy downpours of rain started.  The forecast which had been monitored frequently for days and days and days called for 100% chance of rain (yes….100%, not 99%…., but 100%) and a bit milder temperature (upper 70s I believe) for race day.  That had dropped from being forecasted in the mid to upper 80s from earlier in the week, which we were happy about, but that rain was definitely on our minds.  The consensus was to PLEASE let us get off our bikes safely and then it was free game to rain!  As the rain began Saturday evening, my mood definitely changed.  I had raced in the rain before….heck my biggest race ever included torrential rain…but it was not something I was looking to repeat.  We had also discussed the idea of the swim being cancelled since it was raining so hard, and that was definitely not something we wanted to happen!  When I went to bed that evening, I was not in the best place mentally.  All I could imagine for Sunday was pouring down rain from the time we left the house to the time we returned.

The CRAZY EARLY alarm at 0’dark thirty on Sunday morning and everyone’s pre-race ritual starts.  I am not a morning person and certainly not one at 3 something in the morning.  There was some small talk over breakfast, but personally, I know I was just trying to wake up and get my head in the game…this actually took much longer than normal.  The good news is that IT WAS NOT RAINING!  It seemed that the rain had moved through the area much quicker, so YAY to that!!!!!                    

Our house was about 15 minutes from downtown and we headed out by 4:15am.  Since no one in our group had done this race before, we were not familiar with the logistics.  We got downtown, parked, body marked and into transition for final preparations.  We had to catch a shuttle for a very short ride to the swim start (no line to catch the shuttle).  In the end we had plenty of time, but better to be safe.

Race morning team photo

Once arriving at the swim start, this is where the waiting began along with a bit of frustration.  The Athlete Guide read that it was a self-seeded rolling swim start.  The only other self-seeded swim start I had participated in was at Lake Placid.  They had volunteers with signs of expected swim times and you gather behind the sign that is appropriate.  When we arrived at this swim start, there was just a long line that we joined.  Shortly after arriving, we overhead a volunteer announcing…”If you are a fast swimmer, then you need to go to the front of the line”.  [This started the confusion and frustration for a lot of people.  I don’t consider myself a “fast swimmer”, but what does that mean exactly?  In the end, they did provide a bit more detail regarding “fast” and which light pole we needed to be lined up at for a particular time range, but there were no time signs and it was very unorganized.  In the end, Tony went closer to the front, three of us were more in the “middle” and one decided to head further down the line from the three of us.]

At 6:50 the pro men started and then 6:55 the pro women.  The age groupers were scheduled to start at 7:00.  However, soon after the pro women started, we noticed that there was a boat moving a buoy (also causing lots of wake in the river) which made us start asking questions to one another.  7:00 came and went (without us starting the swim) and eventually there was an announcement made by the race organizers that they were removing the “upstream” portion of the swim thereby shortening it from 1.2 miles to approximately .80 miles.  Apparently, the pros were having some difficulty in the upstream portion (due to the heavy rain) and the decision was made to keep things as safe as possible for the age groupers and change it up.  I was definitely bummed out, but totally understand why this decision was made.  More time passed as the changes were made to the swim course and I am not sure what time the age groupers actually started.  However, I was definitely ready to go by that time!

After the horn was sounded, we slowly made our way to the river.  There was a small dock that we had to go from.  I was watching most people just jump off the dock and I was not wild about this idea.  What if my goggles or seal came loose just enough for water to seep in?  Maybe I will hold them as I jump in….decisions…..  Then I saw someone quickly sit down at the edge of the dock and slide into the water.  That might have taken 2 extra seconds, but when I saw that, I knew that was what I was doing!  I had discussions with my two teammates that I was in line with about how we would get into the water.  Tarina and I decided to take the same approach.  Major props go to Bill who had planned to not do a repeat of his Ironman Louisville swim entry (which was a quasi belly flop) but did exactly that!  It made for a bit of comic relief seconds before my own swim start but lots more post-race!

The official water temperature was 73.6, so wet suit legal!  When I got in it only felt chilly for a few seconds.  I quickly fell into my rhythm and felt like I maintained it throughout.  For at least half the swim I was side by side with Tarina and we even bumped into each other one time…oops!  There were plenty of swimmers but I never felt like it was not crowded, which is great for me.  I tried to keep my head in the swim, which is key, and stay focused on my technique.   I have found that this typically gives me better results overall.  Before I knew it, I was aiming for the ladders surrounded by volunteers to help us out of the river.  SWIM DONE! 

I saw my swim time and distance as soon as I got out of the water (I usually hit the lap button on my Garmin as soon as I stop swimming instead of waiting to cross the timing mat for transition).  I actually saw .82 miles, which seemed pretty close to being on point.  It was hard to gauge my time since it is a swim with the current and shorter than planned.

The run to transition was not a short one but included a brief stop at the wet suit strippers that did a fast and fabulous job!  At that point the weather was still cooperating…it was not raining and very overcast.  I tried to be as efficient in T1 as possible, but I know I need to improve to cut down my time.

Onto the bike!  This is where I am most comfortable.  However, I had a bit of concern in the back of my mind.  The past several weeks leading up to the race, I had some issues in my right glute/hamstring.  It was only when I was on the bike (not on the run) and it had improved the last week or two just before the race.  I had also spent a TON of time on the foam roller; however, I was still going in with my fingers crossed! 

I was very excited about this bike course.  Having driven it I felt prepared and was ready to tackle a new course.  Well, frustration set in within the first few miles.  There were a couple sets of railroad tracks and despite them being covered, the area gave us a rough ride.  Over the first set and immediately I heard my back bottle hit the ground.  CRAP!  I stopped, laid my bike on the ground and ran back (as best I could in bike cleats) and grabbed it.  Ok…big loss of momentum, but back on the bike and into my groove.  Shortly thereafter there was another set of tracks and AGAIN I had a torpedoing bottle.  It actually crossed my mind for one second to keep going.  Since I use Infinit though, all my calories were in the three bottles I was carrying on the bike.  I didn’t have a choice.  Same routine with stopping and it felt like the second time took me even longer.  I was so pissed, but what else could I do?  I tried to put it out of my mind and ride the way I know I could.  

Before I knew it I was out of town and this is where the course really gets enjoyable.  Overall I think the course was a bit crowded, but in comparison to Raleigh 70.3 (which I have done three times), I would say not too different.  My guess is that a shorter swim course provided a smaller window of time for people to get more spread out.

I was just doing my thing and stayed of out of the draft zone when I was not sure I was ready to pass, but also did plenty of passing when my legs gave me the go ahead.  It still blows my mind how many people will ride in the middle or to the left of the lane.  The concept is quite easy…STAY TO THE RIGHT…PLEASE!

The biggest advantage I gained from us driving the bike course was the preparation it gave us leading up to the short, STEEP climb on Andrews.  Otherwise upon making that left hand turn, I definitely would have been in the big ring and HATING life at the point!  However, I did know when to expect it and shifted to my small ring and was ready to hit it!  Upon the turn, I immediately saw two people walking their bikes up the hill and one lady that appeared to have dropped her chain.  YIKES!  That is a legit hill! Thankfully it was short and I just gradually shifted my rear gears and spun up.  I was glad to have that one done and ready for the nice recovery section after.

As I was covering the back half of the course, I would do periodic checks with myself and I continued to feel good.  I knew my pace was great but wanted to keep it in the forefront of my mind that “I was not out to win a bike race” (wise words by my training buddy Bill).  Really, I wanted to push when I could but didn’t want to leave it all on the bike when I still had a half marathon to run.    

As I entered back into town, I was excited about the ride I had.  I was still mad because I had dropped a bottle twice, but I knew I did the ride I could and really exceeded my expectations.  I just wish my Garmin bike average had carried over to to my official finish time.   

Since my Garmin is set to auto pause (and didn’t capture my stops for the dropped bottles), I know my true ride time and distance and a 20+ average would have been crazy exciting to see in my race results.  Still a new PR for that race distance is something to be very proud of!    

Ride data from my Garmin

As I was coming into T2 I saw my training buddy Bill.  Since seeing Tarina early on the bike, I had not seen any of my teammates or Tony racing.  However, the support crew that was there to cheer on our team was loud and so awesome!  It made me smile every time I saw and heard them!

I tried to be as efficient as possible in T2, but once again, I need to improve on my time here.  I started out on my run and my legs didn’t feel that bad.  Maybe I had actually been able to ride that bike course and not crush my legs! 

Starting out on the run

I expected the course to be relatively hilly, but other than that, not sure what to expect.  Overall I was feeling ok…I did have a slight touch of uneasy stomach, but nothing too concerning.  I planned to take Coke at the aid station to hopefully keep it settled. 

The early part of the 2-loop course was definitely not my favorite.  This section is along a highway stretch with no shade and some long gradual hills as well.  The next section was much better as it was along a river walk and had some breeze and shady areas.  There was also a terrific aid station which was a luau theme and lots of fun volunteers. 

After you emerge from this stretch you hit THE HILL!  I continued to run up it on the first loop until about half way.  Then power walked up to the top which was a much better decision.       

The next section of the run took us over a huge bridge which was pretty cool.  I was excited to be nearing the end of loop one.  I had some tough stretches during that loop.  It was starting to warm- up as the sun was peeking out.   I was ready to get through this.

Loop two I knew I needed to keep my head in the game.  Overall, I think I did a pretty good job.  I minimized any walking to be at the aid stations were I was trying to stay cool and keep my stomach happy.  When I hit THE HILL the last time I did power walk as I learned the first time through that was the best plan.

As I neared the finish line I told myself to let go of the focus and enjoy it.  This is something I don’t always make a conscious effort to do, but is was great!  I found myself more emotional than I expected.  With a new PR in the pocket (includes accounting for the shortened swim), I was relieved.  The fifth finish line for a 70.3 is still as sweet as ever!

I immediately found Tony and Bill and we all shared hugs and congratulations.  We met up with our cheering section who were just awesome throughout the day.  Soon after, Tarina and April crossed the finish line and we were all together again.

All smiles!!! (from left to right) Tony, me, Tarina, April & Bill

We knew soon enough after quick conversations that everyone on the team had raced to new PRs!!!  Even estimating the additional time the shortened swim would have added we had met some great goals.

We gathered all our gear and headed back to the house.  Everyone was ready for showers and some serious relaxation!  Hanging out after the race at the house was great.  We took turns in the Norma Techs and shared details of each of our days.  This quality time after the race was truly one of the highlights of having the house that we all shared.  Since no race day is complete without appropriate celebration the entire group went out to dinner at a downtown restaurant called Stir.  It was great ending to our day!

Since I have had time to really reflect on my race, overall I am happy with my day.  My ultimate goal was to lock in a new PR at this distance.  5:53:43 was my long standing PR from Beach to Battleship half in 2012.  I was able to do that.  I felt strong in the swim and only wish it had been safe for us to have the full course.  With the exception of the bottle mishap, I don’t think I would change anything about my bike.  I thought I would be able to gut out a faster run, but I gave it all I had, and that’s all I can ask of myself.  Another one in the books!

posted by on General, Race Report

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This was my third year in a row at this event.  In 2015, I raced this duathlon for the first time and really enjoyed the “new” format.  The timing was a bit earlier this year, which actually worked out great as it serves as a lead up to IM Chattanooga 70.3.   The timing in the past years was ideal as it served as lead up to IM Raleigh 70.3, which is a few weeks later on the calendar.  They offer a short course and long course, but I has always opted for the long course since the 70.3 distance was close behind.  There were five of us from the Oak City Tri team racing, including my hubbie!

Oak City Tri

 

Our first race together in several years

As the case with last year, this event served as the USAT Long Course Duathlon National Championship.  Therefore, the “local” flavor was somewhat replaced since there were lots of participants from out of state.  In fact, in my age group, I was the only one from the Raleigh area (very unusual).  The race was a speedy one for sure!

The race takes place in Cary, which is only about a 35 minute drive.  There was a slight change in venue, but basically it was located just beside the venue from the past couple of years.  It was again a 7:00 am start…however, unlike last years’ event where we had a nice cool morning, when we left the house it was already in the low 70s and feeling a bit muggy.  The forecast for the day was to be the warmest day so far of the year.    

We arrived a bit early, but Tony wanted the on-site mechanic to take a look at something relatively minor on the bike before the race.  It would not have been a deal breaker, but we always want things to be as smooth as possible.  Lucky for us, there were two mechanics set up outside of transition, just waiting for someone to help!  He was able to make a small, quick adjustment and we were all set!  I picked up my packet and timing chip and made my way to transition.  I had plenty of time to set things as I wanted and did a short easy run down to the ladies room to get the blood moving a bit.  There was time before the race to pair up with everyone and share a little small talk before the start.  The plan was for two waves of long course men to start at 7:00 and 7:04 and then for all long course women to start at 7:08.  The short course athletes would start at 7:30 (remember this for later…). 

The long course event was a 5 mile run/31 mile bike/5 mile run.  With the slight change in venue, a new course was on tap for this year.  The run was 2 loops of 2.5 miles each (so yes….4 loops total for the race).  Most of the run took place in the park and the neighboring USA baseball complex.  It included sidewalks, parking lots and very little on the actual road.  The bike course included fast, flat, rolling and climbing sections and multiple views of Lake Jordan.

Starting out

The run started and it was I planned to just see how I felt early on to decide how much to push.  I did not know what to expect exactly from the run course.  Since we started out on a sidewalk, it was rather crowded, so initially, it was more of finding your personal path.  That was ok.  There were plenty of course monitors to direct us on the course which involved a lot of turns.

As I was nearing the completion of the first loop, I noticed the large group of people ahead that just so happened to be the short course folks starting.  Lucky me I was now behind ALL of them, so even more of a crowd of navigate around than when I started!  I will admit, I was kind of frustrated with this format!

Getting mixed into the start of the short course group….all the white bibs around me!

Trying to stay in my rhythm

With starting loop two, I now knew that the run course included a few hills, one short steep hill, but plenty of flat as well.  The best part in the format was seeing Tony and my other teammates on the course.

Onto the bike.  Once again, I did not know specifically what to expect with the new course.  I knew it would be a rolling format that is typical for our area.  I was actually happy to get on the bike as it had started feeling hot and I knew there would be relief from riding.  

There was one thing I was rather nervous about and that was my leg.  I had been having some pain in my right glute/hamstring while on the bike (not on the run at all).  I thought it may have been due to some slight bike fit adjustments that I had done due to a new saddle. Things had been not so good the week leading into the race, that I had some tweaks done just two days prior to the race.  I had been so uncomfortable that I figured it could only improve.

The course ended up being pretty much what I expected.  There was some climbing early on and then we hit a flat, fast section, that was a lot of fun.  Unfortunately, about 30 minutes in I was starting to feel uncomfortable due to my leg.  Not to the extent that I had a few days prior, but definitely not what I was happy with.  I tried to focus on aero and staying strong, but I was definitely ready to get off the bike.

Overall, I liked the bike course and can’t really remember anything major I would suggest changing.  I just wish I could have enjoyed it more without the distraction of my leg.

The one positive is as soon as I was off the bike and on my feet, my leg did not bother me at all.  Back to the run….two loops down and two to go!

On the third loop, I saw one of my teammates still racing and one that had come out to cheer (since he had finished), but I didn’t get to see Tony.  Racing with friends is really the best!

Starting the FOURTH loop! UGH!

As I continued my run, I focused on being smart with my pace.  This day, while still morning, was already feeling hot and I didn’t want to fade just because it was….but also didn’t want to push too much considering.  In hindsight, I think my training took over as my pace didn’t waiver a whole lot.  That is one of the things I am most pleased about.  I really wanted to maintain a sub 9-minute mile for the second loop and I was able to do that.

Finish Line…But focused until the very end!

Also, I was able to really test my hydration/nutrition in a race environment.  This season I have switched to Infinit and while it has worked great in training I wanted to give it a go prior to Chattanooga.  Overall it worked great and I am excited to have this locked down prior to Choo!

Tired and happy!

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.  I was a little disappointed with the event overall.  It had really become one of my favorites and with the new run course, it just didn’t excite me as much anymore.  It was still fun to race a duathlon again and it also served as a great lead up to Chattanooga 70.3.

Garmin Results

Splits from first run

Splits from second run